15 Dec No Bah Humbug, Here! Wise Business Advice from Ebenezer Scrooge
By J’Nel Wright
When we last tuned in, Ebenezer Scrooge, business owner and all-around yuletide grouch from Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, was getting an earful from his former partner (and notably dead), Jacob Marley. In the event that dancing around his bedroom draped in chains wasn’t enough, Marley recruited three consultants to share targeted business expertise with his doomed-to-departmental-damnation friend. And that made all of the difference for Ebenezer, his trusted employee Bob Cratchit, and every future business owner.
Although the new normal in business relies on principles that are a little more strategic than catering a holiday meal with a Costco-sized bird purchased from the neighborhood butcher, the need to provide exceptional customer service for both your external and internal customers is timeless and essential for business growth.
The feedback shared by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future offered a life-affirming experience for Mr. Scrooge, who enthusiastically added a customer-centric focus to the company’s employee handbook. But for today’s businesses, customer service must sit front and center as a core value. And that isn’t always easy. A Gallup poll found only 27 percent of employees surveyed believe in their company’s values—if they know them at all.
So let’s examine the message of these three advisors and consider the value of learning from our past, recognizing the impact of present-day conditions, and incorporating new strategies that may ignite future business growth.
Valuable Lessons from the Past
When the Ghost of Christmas Past led Ebenezer Scrooge down virtual memory lane, he witnessed the impact past experiences have on present-day decisions. By comparison, if your company lost focus from its original plan or made some poor financial decisions, don’t be too hard on yourself. Perhaps you expanded some departments too soon or lost sight of company values that cost you loyal customers or increased employee turnover.
The reassuring message of the Ghost of Christmas Past says it’s not too late to realign company core values and discuss business goals and strategies with your management team. “Core values are at the heart of a strong company culture—they are the foundation of high employee engagement and commitment,” explains Tia Smith, Forbes contributor. Use those core values to develop a transformational work culture that propels your company forward with business growth. Put the needs of your employees and customers first, and loyalty is sure to follow.
Gifts of the Present
Unlike Scrooge, who thought only of himself—an opinion roundly confirmed by a mystical tour among relatives and employees, sponsored by the Ghost of Christmas Present—we should use a customer-centric business approach that places the customers’ needs first by identifying the problems they face from both an industry and individual perspective. Then share solutions through online product branding and messaging, implement a reliable CRM system to track the buyer’s journey, and enable a responsive sales team to help build and nurture those relationships. Customers enjoy working with companies that provide a pleasant, seamless buying experience and whose values align with their own.
But what about the internal customer? When a manager talks with an employee about challenges, sometimes all they need is more warmth and a fully stocked stove, so to speak. You may be surprised by how simple it is to help your employees feel valued. Ask them about their workload, any professional or personal roadblocks, and their business goals, and offer training or other forms of support to help them focus and achieve success, which aligns with the company’s core values. For instance, while spurred by the pandemic, the need to design flexible work schedules and environments is an enduring design that many employees enjoy.
A new Pew Research study found that 71 percent of Americans surveyed said they worked from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, and more than half hope to continue doing so. Is a desire for more flexibility possible in the workplace? If not, do you encourage employees to get involved in community events? Do employees have personal leave? Does your company host wellness programs? Much like businesses respond to customer needs with thoughtful solutions, your employees will thrive from the same treatment.
Goals for the Future
When the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come allowed Ebenezer to hear what people really thought of him (all while stealing from his home), he was shocked. Apply the premise of the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come to your brand: It exposes what may be happening right under your digital marketing nose. You likely have a great relationship with your loyal customers, but how do you connect with potential customers? You know, the ones sifting through your website and products and forming an opinion about your brand without your knowledge?
Building customer relationships requires constant attention. And by “constant,” we mean 24/7 monitoring, messaging and targeting. Experts estimate that 75 percent of all companies already use at least one kind of marketing automation tool, and almost half (40 percent) of companies not currently using CRM automation plan to adopt it soon.
Implementing thoughtful, automated tools will improve the way your company functions and how you deliver products and services to your existing customers as you expand your customer base. And as you incorporate innovative ways to enable your employees to perform their job better, you’ll experience results that are nothing short of a Christmas miracle.
“What Scrooge’s story teaches us is that it’s never too late to change your mind or how you approach things,” writes Nina Zipkin, an Entrepreneur contributor. “Don’t be afraid to try something new, because it could be the best thing that ever happens to you.”