In a highly-competitive marketplace, it's easy for Irish businesses to become totally focused on products and prices — and miss the other 'P', for 'people'. But it's key to success.
Think back to the worst restaurants, hotels or stores you've visited. What they offered may have been awful and over-priced, but it's likely the people and how you were treated is what you remember most. Maybe they could have saved the day, but they didn't. And that made it so much worse.
Increasingly, it's how people feel about your business that counts most. Research shows that customer experience will overtake product and price as the key brand differentiator by 2020 . And there's a big opportunity here too because 86% of buyers are willing to pay more for a great customer experience.
It's your people that will give you the edge. So how can you help them to help you? Here are three suggestions:
#1: Encourage staff to treat customers like stars
That old adage 'The customer is always right' was coined in 1909 by Harry Gordon Selfridge, who founded the famous department store in London. But today, 'the customer is the star' is a much better and more nuanced way of looking at things. Satisfaction isn't about being right, it's about having their needs met.
Hiring and promoting customer-facing staff who understand this is essential. And it's important to tell your team what you expect. Salesforce.com has created an insightful list of the 15 of the most important skills required . These include empathy, persuasive speaking and the use of positive language. Customers especially value staff being able to take responsibility and sort issues themselves.
#2: Equip your employees
There's a big role for training here, whether that's away on a course, online or maybe in-house with your own best practice rules and tips that you share with new employees. Share important information about products, services and how you operate, so staff are knowledgeable. Tablets and other tech can help here too.
But your staff also need to be empowered to be able to delight customers, beyond smiles and courtesy. That could mean the authority to give special offers, discounts, upgrades and going the extra mile to show you really value them. Customers love convenience too, such as buying with mobile wallet/contactless payments, including Apple Pay, or using Dynamic Currency Conversion which allows overseas visitors to pay in their familiar currency rather than euro.
#3: Celebrate success
When customers applaud you on TripAdvisor, Instagram or other platforms, do individual employees get the praise and encouragement they deserve? When staff have the right focus and delight customers, it's essential to hold up their example and share their stories as an inspiration to others. Get involved with local business awards, run your own in-house awards, and think about incentives.
Also, celebrate what's remarkable and ground-breaking for employees. At Elavon, we're sponsoring the Women in Payments 2019 Symposium ('Disruptive Evolution') this month (28 March). Hannah Fitzsimons, General Manager Europe, will be presenting awards on the night. We're also thrilled that our Chief Product Officer, Wally Mlynarski, was named among the Forty Under 40 game-changers within the digital payments arena.
Investing in people is just good business
Having some customer-focused stars on your team in vital roles will improve your bottom line. Over time, you'll see greater sales, repeat business and better reviews. While products and prices are important, it's having exceptional people that will give you the advantage increasingly.
International Women’s Day is this month (8 March). Read about the opportunities and success of women in the financial technology industry — with insights and advice from leading female professionals at Elavon.
 'Delivering Remarkable Experiences Is How You Win More Customers' - Entrepreneur.com (7 June, 2018)
 'Your List of the Most Important Customer Service Skills' - Salesforce.com