Doing the right thing builds customers for life

April 6, 2012

Nashville Business Journal

 

When your goal is to always do the “right thing” you will win in the long run. While life presents us with dilemmas that can lead to poor decisions and murky outcomes, deep down most of us still strive to make the right ethical choice, regardless of confusing influences.

For example we often encounter consumers bickering with salespeople over relatively small issues in retail stores, hotels and restaurants. Is it worthwhile to engage in a dispute over $20 when the lifetime spend of a customer is one, two or even ten thousand dollars? When you stand back and think about the issue, you’ll quickly realize that the right thing to do is simply to take care of the customer.

Losing a few dollars now to make a customer happy before a situation escalates is trivial compared to the potential lifetime loss of that customer. People who feel like they have been heard and respected are more likely to become loyal, lifetime customers.

Rules and rewards
Customers can quickly become passionate about proving a point or getting the value they feel they deserve. In some circumstances it’s acceptable to break — or at least bend — the rules to ensure a better long-term outcome for both parties.

Customers come first. We often run into situations where someone says “our rules won’t let us do that,” even if the request is realistic. Rules and procedures have their place but should not impede good business practice.

Well-run businesses always put the customer first. Written rules should never get in the way of doing the right thing in the given circumstance.

Guidelines, not law
If you have followed my advice of doing the right thing and it violates a rule in your company, talk to your boss to assure your leader that you are in fact doing what is best for the company. Rules and procedures are developed with the best of intentions — and often by people who are not on the firing line. They are drawn as guidelines to produce the best operating results, not as obstacles to doing the right thing for the business.

The people on your team are influenced more by your actions than any other single thing. Regardless of strategies and policies, your employees observe — and learn from — what you do daily. When you practice doing the right thing, your people will do the same. As a teaching leader it also helps to point to examples of people in your organization who when confronted with a difficult situation have done the right thing.

Most of us will face ethical dilemmas in our careers. Especially in these sensitive situations, you must make conscience-based decisions. When in doubt, consult your boss, the HR team or even the CEO. Organizational leadership never wants you to take an unethical step, so always assure yourself that you are indeed following that unwritten rule of good business: Do the right thing.


Joe Scarlett is founder of the Scarlett Leadership Institute and the retired chairman of Tractor Supply Co. He can be reached at joe@scarlettleadership.com.


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