Secret to Success

I spend a lot of time working with current and aspiring entrepreneurs helping them solve their various business challenges and achieve their goals.Regardless of their particular issue or concern to solve the core question always boils down to "how do I make more money"?That question is simple enough but most of the answers often involve a complex array of variables from human resources issues to addressing their 4 Ps. Yet, there is one particular solution that I constantly advocate. After a recent trip to Montreal I have the greatest evidence in support of my simple solution to the simple question.Simply put, the secret to business success is customer service!
From the time my wife and I entered the baggage claim at Trudeau Airport to the time we departed we were completely impressed with the friendly, accommodating and genuinely helpful approach that was supported by the highest degree of product (or area) knowledge among everyone we met. Whether we were shopping in the bustling downtown shopping district, having a tarte d'erable at a neighbourhood boulangerie on a side street at the end of the subway line or ordering an "Ex" at the Bell Centre customer service was clearly the number one priority among all vendors in Montreal.Perhaps that explains why nearly every shop and eatery was busy no matter the time or day; despite the current economic climate.Customer service is simply part of the culture and an extension of social activities. The culture definitely displays its patronage and loyalty in return.If you ever find yourself in that city rest assured that most people are bilingual. Yet, they really do appreciate the effort you may make to speak French so don't be shy to try.
The vast majority of people experience some degree of cognitive dissonance ("buyer's remorse") for many purchases they make.Given the exceptional level of customer service we experienced, my wife and I felt guilty if we didn't buy something in most of the shops and eateries we visited!This is the ideal customer relationship all businesses should strive to achieve – quickly establish a positive rapport with your customers, understand their wants and needs and do everything to assist; even if it means referring them across the street or across town. That relationship certainly does not go unnoticed or unrewarded, if not immediately but certainly in the future.
Among all the things we saw and did on our trip it is the people and customer service that resonate to the top of our mind and memories. People clearly choose to wake up with and maintain a positive attitude throughout the day.Attitude is the one and only choice over which we, as humans, have complete control.Exceptional customer service is a natural extension of a positive attitude for business.There is a reason why Lester's Deli in Montreal has survived and thrived in the very same location since 1951 – by providing an exceptional value proposition that includes superb products at good prices with memorable, friendly customer service.In fact, the reputation Lester's has built over generations has created a legacy that recently allowed it to launch a successful online product delivery portal.
Customer service should be easy, simple and immediate to execute. Of course, simple solutions are not always simple.What is required to achieve the highest level of customer service is a business-wide commitment. That commitment must start with a conscious decision to think positive, be positive and act positively. This commitment must also be genuinely represented in all the words and actions of the business owner right down to front line staff.
There are a number of examples of local businesses that also provide tremendous value propositions for their customers. In fact, I look forward to visiting them on a regular basis as part of my usual routines.I simply enjoy the interactions with their staff and management, which always make me feel good about choosing to spend my money on the goods or services they offer.These businesses are not "hidden secrets". Most of them are easy to figure out because many have been in operation for a very long time in the Alberni Valley. And, like Lester's Deli on rue Bernard there is a reason for that! Simply put, they have found the secret to success and longevity in good times and in tough times. They understand and deliver exceptional customer service.
If anyone wants to share their particular positive experiences with local businesses please feel free to email me: I just may check out the business for myself and, possibly, use it as an example in future columns.