Creating Customer Satisfaction
Tough economic times often provide an overdue ‘wakeup' call for business owners and managers to review every aspect of their business with particular emphasis on Customer Service. Are you meeting or exceeding their expectations? If not, you had better begin doing so for there are a lot of hungry competitors out there chasing your customers. Of course it should always be the primary objective of every business to deliver consistent Service Excellence. But in good times we often become a little complacent and start taking customers for granted, however, you do so at your own peril.
I kept a sign in my office to remind me, ‘we are in business to create a customer then satisfy the needs of that customer'. Too often we get bogged down trying to figure out ways to maximise profit often at the expense of customers. So we need reminding, from time to time, that you can't make a profit without customers.
A good analogy is, "we don't live to eat, but we must eat to live" and that's how profit should be considered in business.
What we do know is it costs on average 5 times more to generate a new customer than it does to keep an existing one. So it helps to think of Customer Service as a profit centre not a cost centre.
Customer Service is the process we use to provide Customer Satisfaction and all things being equal the reward is Retention.
SERVICE = SATISFACTION = RETENTION
My definition of Customer Service is; "I want what I want, when I want it, delivered with speed, efficiency and courtesy".
This involves running your business to suit your customer's but to do so you must to know what they want for often what a customer wants today will be quite different from what they wanted yesterday, or what they might want tomorrow. So an effective ongoing customer dialogue is essential.
Depending on the size of the business there are various methods for acquiring this knowledge. Surveys and Focus Groups are good, but I found the most effective source of information gathering was through a direct conversation with customers and those who serve the customers. During my years running the Budget Rent a Car System we had a policy requiring all executives, managers, and department heads to spend one day a month working in the retail environment, talking to customers and employees so we all kept abreast of their changing circumstances.
Staying in close contact with customers helped us create products and services designed to suit customer needs as opposed to simply suiting the business and its workforce. This is particularly so with systems and processes. Too often they are designed to produce efficiency for the business at the expense of the customer.
Often Customer Service Excellence is achieved through consistently ‘doing the ordinary things extraordinarily well'. The challenge therefore is to create an environment where this becomes common practice by all who work in the organisation.
In my experience this can only be sustained by having an environment where employees...
- Look forward to coming to work each day
- Get satisfaction out of what they do
- Are recognised for their performance
- Work as a team
- Have fun along the journey
The TEAM WORK component of this environment is the foundation for achieving Service Excellence. For in most businesses the delivery of the end product relies on the performance of more than one person. The way the phone is answered, how a Customer is greeted at the place of business, effectiveness of sales personnel and the way after sales service is delivered are a few examples of the team work factor. And what makes it so challenging is each Customer contact has to be a triumph. If there are four customer contacts and three are triumphs but the fourth a failure, the whole experience in the eyes of the customer is a failure.
Look for ways to add value to your relationship with customers by occasionally giving them something that was:
- Un-Asked for
This could be as simple as hand written letter of thanks for their patronage or maybe a free sample, particularly if it could lead to a future sale of the product. Where applicable an upgrade of a hotel room or rental car for regular Customers is a good idea and usually DELIGHTS the recipient.
These days it's not good enough to simply deliver good Customer Service, it must be so good the customer say's Wow! That's the way to KEEP and DELIGHT your Customers.
In tough economic times you have to be VERY, VERY GOOD AT WHAT YOU DO.