It happens all the time: A full-page ad is placed in a major monthly publication. The ad touts the service excellence of their product. Catchy phrases. Great promises. Major dollars are spent to create an implied image in the mind of the consumer. And it can vanish in a heartbeat if promises made are not promises kept-if the derived image cancels out the implied image!
Perhaps this has been your experience: You have been standing in line at the bank looking at a sign hanging on the wall that says "Our Customers Are Our #1 Priority" while the customer in front of you is yelled at by a teller for not having the proper forms needed for the transaction. Or perhaps you've had the interaction with a clerk who rolls her eyes when you ask one too many questions about the product. The point is: we will all talk about the derived image-not the glossy ad. Couple this "talk" with chat on the Internet and you've exponentially reached thousands.
Why should you care what your customers are saying?
- It costs 6 to 8 times more to get a new customer than to keep an old one.
- There is a 12% higher profit margin with your existing customers.
- Companies that keep their existing customers enjoy a 9% higher growth rate than ones who don't.
- When each customer leaves they tell at least ten people they know and with e-mail and Internet they may potentially tell thousands or millions. Just look at the power of City Search and Yelp! to make or break a company.
It doesn't take much to make a negative impression. Here are some of the most common customer complaints: unprofessional staff; disinterested staff; bad attitudes matched with a sense of boredom; more enthusiasm for chatting with co-workers than with the customer and a lack of an ability to solve problems.
Your employees have probably had customer service training but perhaps you are still seeing customers leave. Why is this you ask? It's because leadership didn't take the time to find out how the customer service "rules" affect the actual customer. Here are ten tips to take your customer service from drab to fab:
1. The single most important thing you can do to increase customer satisfaction is to treat your employees well. One disgruntled employee can easily alienate dozens of customers. Find out what is wrong and fix it.
2. Keep employees in the loop so that they are in the know and FEEL like valued insiders. With the power of the Internet your employees can find out corporate news before you do. Don't let this happen to your company. Talk to employees often and in-person.
3. Teach employees to think of themselves as business consultants rather than employees. Empower them to make customer-pleasing decisions without having to call a supervisor.
4. Ask employees to change their viewpoint. Have them look at all customers as multi-million dollar businesses and treat them accordingly.
5. Embrace new ideas and reward innovation. Seek and act on advice from your frontline because most of the time they are the only contact a customer has with your company.
6. Recognize and reward each other. Think in 360 directions. A manager needs praise from a subordinate a much as from her boss. Encourage peer-to-peer recognition for helping each other resolve customer issues.
7. Constantly seek innovation. Ask everyone to study the competition and find out what they do that makes them better. The frontline will see what a higher-level manager will not.
8. Seek and act on customer feedback. Don't bother with customer surveys. Assign an employee or employees to scour the Internet for both positive and negative conversations about your company.
9. Make your current customers feel important. Offer them price cuts or coupons, make every transaction with them pleasant, communicate transparently and have a live person answer your phones, thanking the customer for his business .
10. Seek and reward referrals from current customers. One local chiropractor provides a free adjustment to any patient who refers someone else. She gets dozens of referrals every week and her practice thrives even during economic turmoil.
Don't just pay lip service to improving customer service. Good customer service is the linchpin to survival at any time but especially during difficult times. Start by treating your employees well, keeping them in the loop, and releasing them to do what it takes to send each customer away happy.
© 2009, McDargh Communications.