SUN Tzu, a general of ancient China, is famous for his treatise on military strategy called the Art of War.

In recent times, his work has enjoyed renewed popularity especially in the application of its strategies in areas of management, marketing and leadership.

Sun Tzu’s treatise also has much relevance in the avenue of delighting customers.

A business whose customers start to go elsewhere will soon fail. Therefore, it becomes the paramount concern of everyone working in an organisation to take every opportunity to delight both its internal and external customers.

There are five edicts of Sun Tzu from which you can draw lessons on learning to delight customers:

Strategy 1

“He who can modify his tactics in relation to his opponent and thereby succeed in winning may be called a heaven-borne captain.”

What this means in customer service is that you need to learn to modify what you are doing so that you can always please the customer. This means looking at what you are already doing and improving on it by identifying what the customer really wants.

It also means differentiating your product or service from what your rivals are offering, so that you stand out from the crowd and give your customers something fresh and interesting.

Strategy 2

“There is no instance of a country having benefited from prolonged warfare.”

The lesson here is that you have to quickly identify any grievance a customer might have and resolve it effectively. Many customers become even more dissatisfied when there is a delay in resolving their complaints.

When a customer is unhappy about a product or service, the management should act swiftly to identify where the fault lies, placate the customer and do a quick service recovery.

Strategy 3

“Know thyself — know thy enemy”

Your customer is the “enemy” in the sense that you have to win him over.

Customers drive your business and if you are unable to satisfy their needs and wants, then you will lose the battle for their loyalty.

You need to know what your customer wants and what your own strengths and weaknesses are, so that you can improve the former and minimise the latter. To engage and win your customer’s loyalty, you have to fulfil his needs and delight him too.

If your personality is a strength, use that to your advantage, or impress the customer by going the extra mile to personally deliver a product to his home later if it is temporarily out of stock now.

Strategy 4

“What the ancients called a clever fighter is one who not only wins, but excels in winning with ease.”

Once you have mastered the true art and science of customer service, you will find that you are able to handle all kinds of customers — especially the difficult ones — with relative ease.

But don’t become complacent. Be alert to threats that might destroy your relationship with your customers. Never take your customers for granted.

Strategy 5

“In battle, there are not more than two methods of attack — the direct and the indirect; yet these two in combination give rise to endless series of manoeuvres.”

What this means is that there is no quick fix formula in building customer relations. As a good “general”, you need to assess the situation to see what is the best course of action that you need to take in delighting your customers.

This would require you to constantly review and come up with new initiatives to ensure that your customers will be delighted with your product and/or services and keep coming back for more.

An example of a “direct” method is how well you or your colleagues treat a customer during your encounter with him. The experience may result in a sale and/or the customer leaving with a very favourable impression of your company.

An “indirect” method of attack (that is, your strategy to keep your customers happy) could be to offer them certain benefits or discounts, or keep in touch via greeting cards or newsletters.

Sun Tzu’s Art of War focused on military tactics, but his wisdom can just as well be applied to the modern-day battle of winning customers and ensuring the survival of your business.