Do You Believe Customers Are an Asset or a Cost Center? By Customer Bliss's Jeanne Bliss
With only one retail location, Zane's Cycles of Connecticut is one of the three largest bike shops in the United States. It sells $15 million each year in bicycles and bike supplies, with a relationship grounded in customer trust. For example, on any given day you might see a $6,000 bike go out the door for a test drive without any one of Zane's folks asking to collect the customer's identification or any type of collateral. "Do you want my license?" customers often ask. The response is always, "Nope, just have a good ride." Zane's takes this approach because it wants potential customers to know that in this world there's a store that trusts them, and it's Zane's. Although made as a decision to embrace customers, this approach also sends a strong message to Zane's staff. "This is not about protecting ourselves," owner and president Chris Zane says. "We're in the people business, not the thing business. This decision helps our staff understand and act on that key difference." It gives customers confidence and a lasting impression that they have found a place where they'll want to do business.
New Zane's employees often suggest that they protect the business by taking customers' keys or wallets when they test drive a bicycle. Chris Zane firmly says "no" to this suggestion. This is when employees and customers realize Zane's is a service business, not a product business. And it sets the tone for how employees interact with customers. It frees them to do the right thing. "We calculate the lifetime value of every customer at $12,500," says Zane. "Why start out that customer relationship by questioning their integrity? We choose to believe our customers."
Customers feel trusted by Zane's. And that trust is returned to Zane's. Of the 4,000 bikes the store sells each year, only about five are stolen during test drives. For Zane's it's just not worth having the whole attitude of the company change because of five dishonest people. Zane's belief is that the majority of customers do what's right. That attitude frees Zane's to grow. The company has achieved an average annual growth rate of 23 percent since opening in 1981.
Why not take a page from Zane's, and take a hard look at your policies? Change or eliminate any that exist to "protect" you from your customers.
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