A customer doesn’t just buy your products and services; they actually buy a whole set of experiences. If that’s not true, think about a time where you went into a store to buy something and you received terrible service and came away saying to yourself “I don’t care how much I want that product, I will never buy from them again!”
Why customers leave
You can have the best products, best systems, latest equipment, best ordering systems, latest technical expertise, but it means nothing without having the right people. In today’s business environment, people still prefer to buy from people. They still like to talk to a real person if they have a problem, not a machine or a recording.
If you invest in your people and put them first, they will look after your customers. If a customer is satisfied, as a business you begin to build customer loyalty leading to a greater investment in your people which in turn keeps your employees satisfied. Good customer service is a perpetual cycle. If for any reason this cycle is broken, then the trust of the customer is lost.
According to the U.S. Small Business Administration and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, these are the main reasons why customers leave.
|68%||Because of poor customer service and the indifferent treatment by staff|
|14%||Are dissatisfied with the product or service|
|9%||Start doing business with the competition|
|5%||Seek alternatives or develop business relationships with friends|
According to authors Emmet C. Murphy and Mark A. Murphy in their book, “Leading on the Edge of Chaos,” acquiring a new customer can cost as much as five times more than satisfying and retaining current customers. A 2% increase in customer retention has the same effect as decreasing your costs by 10% and depending on the industry, reducing your customer defection rate by 5%. Profitability can increase by 25% – $125% just by keeping your customers.
If customers are satisfied, they will return and buy from you again. Not only that, they most likely will recommend you to their friends and families. Repeat business results in greater sales and profit and also leads to more satisfied and motivated employees.
So if customer profitability tends to increase over the life of a retained customer, and 68% of customers leave because of poor customer service, then doesn’t it make sense to hire people with a positive customer service attitude?
1. Provide excellent customer service
Excellence in customer service is about going the extra mile. It means really listening to a customer, fulfilling their needs and making the extra effort. Good customer service is when the customer is completely satisfied with the service you have provided. Great customer service is not just one person’s responsibility, it the responsibility of everyone in your organization.
2. Manage their expectations
If a customer orders a delivery for 3:00 pm, they expect it to be delivered at 3:00 pm. If a customer expects a certain standard of service, their expectation is that service will be to that standard. If a customer orders a product – then the product has to live up to what you said the product will do for them. The customer also expects that if you “don’t” live up to their expectation, you will make it up to them in some way.
It’s also about:
- Getting help when they need it with no hassles or delays
- Dealing with competent staff who anticipate their needs and wants
- Dealing with staff who are authorized to make decisions without passing the buck
- Being treated with respect
3. Adopt a positive attitude
Milton Rokeach, a social psychologist, describes attitude as “a learned disposition or tendency to respond favorably or unfavorably to an object or situation.”
An employee’s attitude towards a customer has a direct bearing on how that customer perceives your service levels. Compare the following attitudes:
|I’m bored with my job||I love my job|
|Here comes “that” customer again – I hate dealing with them||Here comes my favorite customer|
|We are too expensive||Our products and services are the best|
|Our sales process is the pits||We have great systems and processes|
|That’s not my job||We work together well as a team|
What do you think the customer’s perception will be in each of the above scenarios?
What happens is, if your employees hold a positive or negative attitude towards customer service they will subconsciously cause the result of what they believe in the first place.
At the heart of our attitude is how we think, which affects how we see things, which affects how we feel, which affects how we act (the attitude cycle.) It all starts with our attitude. If staff have a negative attitude towards serving your customers, they will look for information to support that attitude. They will view the customers through their unique perspective and this in turn is how the message will be received.
Effective customer service begins with a positive attitude. If a staff member is abrupt and moody it will make the customer feel negative, not only about the person they are dealing with, your business as a whole. This will also give them an opportunity to complain. So if your staff have a positive attitude towards the customer, it will make them feel good and look for further opportunities to do business with you.
4. Take ownership
Taking ownership means to take responsibility. In your experience you would have heard people say “that’s not my job.” If a customer needs to be served, it is the responsibility of everyone in your organization to deliver the highest level of service they can, even if it’s to say, “I’m sorry I don’t know, let me go find someone who can help.”
Taking ownership means all staff are personally responsible for playing a part in customer service even if dealing directly with the customer is not their role.
5. Accommodate their needs
When a customer approaches you for your products and services, if their request is simple, normally you can accommodate them very easily. However, if their request is more complicated, how is the customer treated? Are you willing to accommodate their request or are you intent on getting rid of them quickly? Do you respond well, show a caring attitude that is full of interest? Are you courteous, diplomatic and anxious to please?
You know how you react to a customer, after all, you have a vested interest. “Your money, your time, your pride, your desire to succeed.” But what about your employees? How sure are you of their attitude towards your customers? There is no point spending money to bring customers in the door – if your employees lose the sale through poor customer relations and service.
The key is, how well do you recruit and train your staff?”
Sell the value of your service to your people and collectively create your customer service goals. When your employees are part of the solution they are far more likely to step up to the plate and deliver.
6. Maintain a great relationship
One of the most valuable ways you can develop warm customer relations is to use their name. It enhances their self-esteem and makes them feel important and lets them know you are listening to them. Whether on the phone or in person, repeat their name when you are introduced, try to use it frequently through the conversation, and above all else, remember it.
If you make a promise, make sure you keep it!
If you say you will be there to meet them at 2 o’clock, make sure you are there at 2 o’clock. If you promised to follow up – make sure you do. If you make a promise, make sure you keep it! If not….don’t make the promise.
Return phone calls promptly!
You may not think it’s important – however, it was important enough for them to want to talk to you, be courteous and return the call.
Send a thank you note. A hand written note on a non-corporate card is more personal. Let your customers know regularly that you appreciate their business.
Be a good listener!
As you listen, have eye contact and acknowledge to the customer you are listening with a nod of the head, asking questions, voicing agreement.
Treat every customer as if you are about to lose his or her business!
If you assume you are about to lose a customer, imagine how much extra effort and enthusiasm you would have. Never be complacent.
Maintain regular contact!
Let them know you are still in business through a phone call, regular mail outs, personal calls or emails.
Never be late.
Treat your staff as good as your customers!
Lead by example and treat your staff well. Your staff can make or break a business. Resentment breeds contempt – and the customer will sense this.
Compliment your customers!
Not any compliment, a genuine compliment. Look for opportunities to acknowledge an achievement with a compliment or give warm fuzzies with a personal positive comment.
Above all else smile!
On a final note
When you treat your employees like royalty, they in turn will treat your customers like royalty
In a Nutshell
- Excellence in customer service is the responsibility of all employees
- Manage customer expectations
- Adopt a positive attitude towards serving your customers
- Take ownership even if customer service is not your formal role
- Accommodate their needs regardless of your position
- Maintain a great relationship
To maintain a great relationship with your customers, create a customer service charter.
- Use their name
- Keep your promises
- Return calls promptly
- Show appreciation
- Be a good listener
- Maintain regular contact
- Be punctual
Above all treat your employees as well as your customers!