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An IKEA idea

According to one writer in a Detroit newspaper, "Good customer service by companies is a matter of providing a better customer experience and connecting to their customers on a human level."(Seidman, 2007)

I recently had the opportunity to attend a business workshop with my fiancee at (all places) an IKEA store. You know, the place with household and furniture products with strange Scandinavian names that Americans cannot pronounce nor seem to live without. Well, the group attending the workshop was shown the way into the employee conference room where the workshop presented by SCORE - Counselors to America's Small Business was taking place (By the way, if you are a small business person and haven't taken advantage of the free workshops and business counselors at SCORE, I highly recommend them!). Before the workshop began, my fiancee and I were looking around the room. We noticed a mission statement of sorts on the wall. It was written by IKEA's founder, a man named Ingvar. It was entitled, "Ingvar's 9 Points". Here they are:

  1. The product range and identity
  2. The IKEA Spirit - strong and living reality
  3. Profit gives us resources
  4. Reaching good results with small means
  5. Simplicity is a virtue
  6. Doing it a different way (It was written upside down)
  7. Concentration - important to our success
  8. Taking responsibility - a privilege
  9. Most things still remain to be done - A glorious future!

I thought they were worth jotting down. They give great insight into the IKEA business philosophy and how business is done at a very successful organization. Then, I looked around the room again and saw another list. It was entitled: "4 Goals of an IKEA Store". They give even greater insight to why customer service is so good at these stores;

  1. To act as a highly efficient, and staffed sales mechanism
  2. To show home furnishings solutions full of home furnishing ideas
  3. To serve as a well qualified home furnishing specialist
  4. To provide a day out for the whole family

In both lists (not really meant for public viewing) it is possible to derive a connection between a better customer experience through good, interesting products, and connecting to the customers on a human level. In this fast changing, shrinking world, the company that consistently adheres to a pledge of customer service and human connection will succeed. A unique product simply is not enough anymore. A customer wants to feel appreciated, not so much in "we appreciate you business"; this statement seems quite empty when not followed up by relevant action. We want to feel the service is sincere.

As a customer service expert, I am constantly amazed at how companies choose to entice customers with rewards and sales, but take them for granted once they are captive, either in the store or on a contract. Because while being a fantastic company is more than half the battle, the best thing a company can do to retain a customer is to give customers a reason to trust them. Business should follow the IKEA philosophy to out-behave the competition in not only product, but by action - adhering to an ethos of excellent customer service and the human connection.