Don’t Leave Customer Service Behind

Monday, March 26 2018

Do you have your eye on customer service? As you prepare to sell or transition your business, you may be tempted to take employees or customers for granted, even if they have traditionally been quite important to you. You may feel you have bigger fish to fry, especially if business is humming along nicely:  strategic planning, forming your advisory team, cleaning up your financials, looking for a successor or a buyer. These are important, but never at the expense of looking after your lifeblood – your customers and those who serve them.

When you are considering succession, there are a lot of moving parts, which all seem important; and, depending how close you are to the chosen date of transition, they may all seem urgent as well. How do you prioritize your best efforts to prevent any of them from falling through the cracks?

If you hope to sell your business, delighting your customers and your employees needs to be at the top of your list. No matter how accurate and clean your financials, how impressive your board of advisors, or how detailed your strategic plan, if sales are down or your employees are jumping ship, then your business valuation is dropping like a stone. In these circumstances your statistical chances of even finding an interested buyer are not much better than rolling seven on a pair of dice[1]. Would you bet your business, maybe even your retirement, on those odds?

On the other hand, if your sales and profitability are trending up, your employees are engaged and happy, attrition and turnover are low, and new employees are coached in the policies, procedures and positive culture of the business, then a prospective buyer may overlook weaknesses in other areas.

If you have enough time – at least 3-5 years – you can manage it all, but at no point should you let up on what matters most:

  • Look after your employees. Help them to grow through training, coaching and mentoring. Track your success by using employee engagement surveys that provide feedback and specific ways to improve.
  • Track customer satisfaction through surveys, feedback forms, number of referrals, fewer complaints or returns. Engaged, high performing employees will look after your customers. Make sure you have customer champions who report their key performance indicators.

While strategic issues are top of mind, you may be tempted to let some things slide. Don’t let it be customer service. In fact, now might be the very best time to go beyond customer service to customer delight.

[1] 16.7 percent. According to a survey conducted by the Exit Planning Institute, only 20% of all business owners successfully sell their business.