Being in the entrepreneur mode lately, I’ve been thinking about what makes certain companies successful. After reading up on some which are the cream of the crop in customer service, including Amazon.com, Nordstrom and Zappo’s to name a few, I was motivated to write a post about how we can take some business lessons from them and apply them to how we approach Daw’ah.
After doing some research, it didn’t surprised me at all why these retailers were ranked at the top. All of them put customer service at the top of their core company values. In fact, Zappo’s teaches it’s employees to not have good “customer service” but “service” as they like to put it. They believe service is 24/7 and if you really care about helping people no matter where you are or what time it is then this will naturally carry over to how you do business.
It’s a philosophy which is taught from the top of the company and flows to the bottom.
See example below:
Now pay attention to this, in the Nordstrom’s employee handbook, it begins with the following statement:
“Welcome to Nordstrom: We’re glad to have you with our Company. Our number one goal is to provide outstanding customer service. Set both your personal and professional goals high. We have great confidence in your ability to achieve them.”
Your probably thinking well Saad it’s obvious, have outstanding customer service and your business will take off. Well the fact is many companies don’t stress this enough which results in customers bouncing to one of their competitors. But customer service goes beyond the traditional things that come to your mind, it’s about being extraordinary and impressive. I’ll paraphrase the story of a book store owner who was also once the professor of Jeff Bezo’s (founder of amazon). Sorry can’t remember his name right now.
Anyways one day at his book store, some plants fell from the balcony onto a customers car, leaving the car covered in dirt. The customer got extremely angry so the owner came out and told the customer he would make sure the car get’s spotless. He drove the customer’s car to all the car washes that were nearby but that failed since they were all closed. Then he told her, that he would clean the car himself with all of his cleaning supplies at his book store. After full-filling his promise, this resulted in the customer purchasing a large quantity of books from his store.
Now that’s how you care about your customers. The owner could have easily brushed off the incident and not take responsibility but he took the higher road.
Lesson learned: Go out of your way to make your customer happy and they’ll support your business!
My favorite CEO today is Jeff Bezos (May Allah swt guide him), not only is he quite humble but his perspective on doing business is amazing. Learning from his professor, he says:
“We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job everyday to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better.”
In other words putting people or in this case your customers before you. These are all essentially different dimensions of customer service and shaping customer experience with the products and services your selling but the main aspects of servicing others is not complicated at all. In fact, you just need be human and act according to your innate nature. Often times, shatan makes us feel that we need to cheat or be shady to get more sales. The truth is Allah (swt) has already decreed how much your going to get. So your only fooling yourself if you feel that you need to take haraam means to get there. Think about it.
To successfully serve your customers, you need to:
- Always be honest to your customers, especially when you or your company have messed up. Don’t worry Pinocchio isn’t your boss.
- Be gentle with your customers, even when they piss you off. In a hadith narrated by Imam Tirmidhi, Prophet Muhammad (s) said “Allah’s mercy descends on one who is gentle at the time of buying, selling, and requesting payment.”
- Learn from the best (Zappos, Amazon, Nordstrom) Listen closely to what your customers are saying, often times they are your biggest critics. When Imam Shafi was asked once how he got great character, he replied ” I listened to my critics and took their criticism seriously”.
- Once you receive this criticism, you need to be able to reflect upon it and channel it accordingly so there is constant improvement. It’s very likely what you learned or experienced can be helpful to another employee, so document it and share it with your team. The best way to handle heated moments is to avoid being reactionary but more importantly mentally prepared.
- Reward your customers! This is one of the most proven methods to keep customers happy, the best things in life are free.
Applying the above lessons for Daw’ah:
As a Muslim, I figured this sort of relates to how we should strategically give daw’ah or invite people to Islam. At the end of the day, people will always remember how you treated them, especially based on first impressions, it’s that simple. Allah (swt) says in the Qur’an:
“Invite to the way of your Lord with wisdom and good instruction, and argue with them in a way that is best. Indeed, your Lord is most knowing of who has strayed from His way, and He is most knowing of who is [rightly] guided”. (16:125)
Below is a chart which displays reasons for customer service complaints which was collected and analyzed by a consumer complaints firm called groubal.com. You’ll notice that many of the reasons are directly applicable to how some Muslims deal with Non Muslims, which sadly results in them having a negative perception of Islam. Which isn’t always fair but it’s the current reality.
The reasons that specifically stood out to me were:
- Language 5%
- Rudeness 17%
- Carelessness 11%
I’ve witnessed several stories of people who came into and Islam and left because they wouldn’t given their expected level of comfort and support, the essential follow up from the community is too slow (same as the significant reason of poor customer serve as illustrated above) which results in this person leaving the deen. It can definitely apply to the aspect of carelessness as well. Sounds similar to a customer leaving a business? I think so!
This reminds about many ex-Muslims that were deaf who also left Islam because they didn’t have no one to teach them about the Qur’an and Sunnah through sign language, quite sad but rudeness our our side to say the least.
Along with that, is just basic language which often times you go to a Masjid in America and there isn’t a Khutbah in English to cater to the individuals in attendance. This is particularly disturbing since we’re in a country where English is the most popular language. I guess this would fall more within marketing and understanding your target audience, but nevertheless all these elements are directly related.
All of the proven practices discussed above must be consciously executed throughout your respective organization or business and are essential to first attract and then retain your target audience/market. There’s no doubt that carelessness, being rude and being slow to respond are critical in maintaining relationships. Along with this, the essential qualities of being honest and understanding who your engaging with are the keys to winning the hearts and minds of people.
From an historical perspective, Islam spread through the world (especially Indonesia) largely due to how honest Muslim businessmen/merchants conducted themselves through their trade and dealings.
Related to this, our beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was known as Al-Sadiq (the Truthful) and Al-Amin (the Faithful). Every Makkan, rich or poor called him by these names before he received revelation and these qualities were directly reflected in his success as a businesman as well.
The best form of marketing is word of mouth and when you have a great experience with a business then it’s only natural that you refer that business to someone your close to. The same applies to Islam, if we live according to the standard and best practices outlined by the Qur’an and Sunnah knowing that we’re representing Islam for Allah (swt) sake, then it’s only right more and more people will observe and become interested in learning why we are behaving the way we are.
To wrap it up, I want to mention that companies undoubtedly have a dark side to them as well and like humans they will make mistakes because they are being operated by humans. So let’s not forget that there are always ups and downs in all aspects of life but it’s all you respond to failure that makes you truly successful and Allah (swt) knows best.
Anyways insha’Allah we can all including myself benefit from this if it’s correct. Well I’m out of here like the full moon on a clear and cold winter night. Wa’saalam Yo!