A few weeks ago I was at Perkins, attempting to pay for my meal. Employees scurried back and forth with not even a curious glance in my direction. Finally, the manager said something which compelled another employee to issue an order. And, like magic, a smiling young lady appeared and graciously took my money.
Not long after that I sauntered up to the customer service counter in our local Barnes & Noble, trying earnestly to look like a customer in need. (I'm serious, I really was earnest. )
Two employees walked into the customer service area, walking straight toward me. Neither one of them made even the slightest amount of eye contact. Eventually, when they were done talking, one of them “noticed" me (as if I had just appeared out of thin air).
I could go on, but I think you get the idea. In both cases, I was an Invisible Customer. I knew I was there. But the employees treated me like I wasn't.
We've all had this experience so we all know what it feels like. It's one of the worst things you can do to a customer. Yet it happens every day in every community.
The danger is that invisible customers will eventually disappear for real. They will not stick with a company whose employees ignore them.
Why would they?
Invisible customers are one step away from being former customers, and unhappy ones at that. They will gladly tell anyone who seems even remotely interested why they left your business. “The employees acted like I was not even there" is what they will say.
But there is good news.
Because the cause of invisible customers is also the cure. Customers become invisible because employees make them invisible. It is a conscious choice by the employees to ignore customers. That is the ONLY way customers can be invisible.
So, the solution is just as simple: stop ignoring customers.
As an owner or manager, you need to understand what would make an employee ignore their customers. There are many reasons. Bad attitude, too “busy", misunderstanding priorities, etc. You need to make it clear (with your policies and your own behavior) what the priorities are.
"Customers come first" should be burned into everyone's brain.
We are entering a period in our economy where perhaps only the best will survive. There will be much less room for mistakes because customers have many more choices. It's never been more dangerous to deliver bad customer service.
But your company can survive and even thrive. Make sure sure your company is a winner. Make sure you don't have any invisible customers.
Kevin Stirtz is the “Amazing Service Guy". He is a customer service speaker and trainer who helps companies increase revenue and profits by delivering Amazing Service. Kevin has been quoted in such major media as BusinessWeek, the Boston Globe, Smart Money and the Chicago Sun Times. Get a free copy of his Amazing Service Toolkit at http://amazingserviceguy.com