We’ve all heard that saying applied in many areas of life. But in business those words run deep. “It all comes back around.” That is why in this article I'm proposing that you consider giving your customers a “baker’s dozen” in every transaction that you make with them.
Before we delve into talking about the “baker’s dozen”, we should first lay a little basic groundwork about what constitutes good and bad customer service, and why it matters so much. Customer service is NOT a single transaction that's finished when the service has been completed and the customer has paid. No, those days are long gone. Today every transaction has the potential to reward our company or harm our company to a degree that runs infinitely deeper than the initial transaction.
When I was a younger man there were few ramifications if a customer wasn't satisfied with the service they received. There were limited ways for them to air their grievances. But as we all know - today’s customer has countless portals through which they can damage the reputation you've worked so hard to develop. Today’s unhappy customer can Yelp, Tweet, Blog, post videos to Youtube, and spew negative comments all over the Internet - quicker than you can say “what went wrong?”. This could cost our reputation and our business dearly. Hence it’s more critical than ever that we make absolutely positively sure that customers are delighted.
Let’s also consider the flip side of this coin. After all, these digitized consumers also have the power to do good. As quickly as they could become our online foe, they could just as easily become our ally - writing glowing reviews and referring us to their friends. And that's where this article comes in. The power to turn customers into allies is in your hand.
Think for a moment; which kind of customer do you want? The angry customer who’s out to let the world know just how badly your company failed, or the one who simply can't seem to say enough nice things about you and your enterprise? I don't know about you, but I'm all about filling my customer database with the latter ones.
Okay so we know how everything comes back around in business - for good or for bad (and rather quickly too). The question is, what can you and I do to ensure we consistently move the needle into the positive zone?
The Baker's Dozen Rule For Excellent Customer Service
Guess what? It's not really all that hard. It starts off with a little rule I learned in business many years ago about providing customers with a “baker’s dozen”. You see, if you can provide your customers with a “baker’s dozen” you can never go wrong. Do you remember the “baker’s dozen”? The neighborhood baker would customarily toss in a thirteenth item whenever a customer ordered a dozen. That little extra item didn't cost the baker very much, but it always made the customer smile - they left his shop feeling good. And in the end isn't that what good customer service is all about? The thirteenth item doesn't have to be monumental. Simply giving a little extra with each customer transaction is what I’m talking about here. It comes down to showing the customer that you care.
Conversely some companies go in the other direction in this area. Rather than providing a little something extra, they provide the customer less than they should. The origin of the “baker’s dozen” actually dates back to medieval times. The practice among bakers was to give 13 items to the dozen as a safeguard for short weights and measures, which carried stiff penalties. Apparently bakers who shortchanged their customers could be subject to a judicial amputation of a hand. If that penalty was still in effect I imagine business would be conducted a little differently today.
Just as it was dangerous to come up short on customer service in medieval times, it’s also a dangerous position to take in business today. It becomes especially dangerous in light of the social media trends considered above. Therefore whenever we agree to provide the customer with “X” - “X” is what they should receive. Sadly some companies take a rather shortsighted view of this principle. Perhaps they don’t realize what it means to provide the level of service the customer is rightly entitled to. They’re missing out on giving that thirteenth item, they're missing out on the smile on their customer’s face, they’re missing out on the lifetime value of a happy customer, and they're missing out on the positive energy that “baker’s dozen” transactions can generate for their company.
What I'm proposing here with the “baker’s dozen” principle is really very simple. It starts by giving the customer exactly what you’ve agreed to, never failing on this point. And then top off the sale with a little something extra - the “baker’s dozen”. It's easy to find simple ways to give a little extra.
Implementing The Baker's Dozen Strategy
What will it cost you to give a little extra on every transaction? It will cost you very little in time, effort, and expense. What will you gain? You'll grow a business full of loyal customers who know they can count on you to provide above and beyond service every time. And that's the payoff. That high level of confidence in your company will continue to bring you rewards over the entire history of your company. The value of your company will be great in the eyes of those you serve.
What about when things go wrong? (Let’s face it, nobody’s perfect.) The “baker’s dozen” rule applies when there are problems too. Then it's time too show the same generous spirit. We’ve gotta step up and do the right thing - and also add a little something extra to cover their inconvenience. Take care of the customer (even if perhaps they're in the wrong).
Keep in mind... the customer has the power to make or break our good reputation. Like the medieval baker who could lose a hand to an axe - an awful lot is at stake in our businesses too. Since our reputation and our company’s future are held in the balance, it’s easy to see that whatever it takes to resolve the customer’s problem promptly is well worth any reasonable expense and effort on our part. Looking at the big picture, doing the right thing for a disappointed customer, is like the baker giving that little extra thirteenth item.
All of this may sound rather simplistic, perhaps obvious. Well then, why don't more companies get it? Why doesn't everyone provide their customers with a “baker’s dozen” experience? If you find the answer to that one let me know. At the end of the day I'm sure you'll agree - businesses who take a shortsighted view of providing excellent customer service will ultimately feel the impact in the long run.
Bottom line: Give ’em a “baker’s dozen” every chance you get. Businesses that try harder by providing their customers with a little something extra will be genuinely rewarded. Those rewards extend beyond money - you'll also enjoy the satisfaction of knowing you've done “the right thing”. It's a great way to run a business (you might say it's the ONLY way to run a business).
In conclusion: I’d like to put this challenge to you... Can you find opportunities in your daily operation where you can provide a little extra? Can you find ways to deliver the “baker’s dozen”? And conversely, can you also implement strategies to quickly respond with genuine care whenever something goes wrong? I’m sure that you can.
I’d like to invite you to share your ideas for implementing “baker’s dozen” principles in your business in the comments section below. I wish you success as you find ways to provide your valued customers with a “baker’s dozen”!