Good customer service creates ‘raving fans’

Several of my recent columns have discussed the basic methods used to attract customers to your business, and suggested tips to keep them coming back.

Several of my recent columns have discussed the basic methods used to attract customers to your business, and suggested tips to keep them coming back.

Competition is a reality. A well-planned customer service plan is critical to growth.

This week, I’ll address how your customer service can create “raving fans.”

Most customers have had at least one bad buying experience. Rude or indifferent service, sub-par products, late deliveries and lost orders are some examples.

But for whatever reason, they rarely complain. The restaurant’s suggestion box is usually empty. Often customer surveys suggest clients are “satisfied.”

A customer can have many great buying experiences, but all it takes is just one bad experience and the customer may never return.

Every business owner should create a “vision” of customer-centred service. It’s critical to know who your customers are and how to target that demographic: What do they need; what are they willing to pay?

Once you are confident you know this information, you can match their vision with yours.

Communicate your vision to the rest of your staff or team, and then provide all the training they need. Customers want good value for their money.

Well-trained, attentive staff makes customers feel happy to come back for more. Make doing business with you a warm and pleasant experience.

You can’t expect your employees to look after business if you don’t look after them. Link your company’s bonuses, promotions and performance evaluations with your customer service plan. Even with tight budgets, you cannot afford to loose key performers.

In the book Raving Fans, Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles talk about “the loyalty ladder” and how to move people up the ladder from “suspects” to “raving fans.”

• Suspects — These are people that fit your defined target market, information that you should know as you create your customer service vision.

• Prospect – This is a person that takes some form of action: visits your website or comes into your store. Make it easy for customers to do business with you, like clearly mark prices and have no hidden costs.

Use various methods to educate your customers. Use in-store demonstrations and product handouts to help your customers shop. Be sure to collect their details (name, email) at this point.

• Shopper — This is a person that buys something and confirms their details. Basically they are trying you out. This is the point which your customer service vision kicks in to entice the shopper to return.

• Client — People become clients when they buy a second time. This is the level where you can introduce branded, loyalty cards. Get them on your email newsletter list.

• Member — Clients graduate to members once they feel they are respected for their business and receive extra care and attention. All clients should be on your database that gets them early notification of new shipments or special offers.

• Advocate — People become advocates when they are very satisfied with your products and services and tell others about your business. This level is where a structured referral system works well.

• Raving fans — Someone is a raving fan of your business when they do the “selling” for you. The products and services exceed their expectations and they encourage others to buy.

These customers are priceless and must be given special attention. Reward them with special services, like VIP sales or preloaded gift cards.

Ideally, your customer service plan is developed with your raving fans in mind.

To review this and other columns go to the Advocate website at bprda.wpengine.com and search for “ActionCoach.”

ActionCoach is published on the second and fourth Tuesday of every month in the Business section of the Advocate. It is written by John MacKenzie, whose Red Deer business ActionCoach helps small- to medium-sized organizations in areas like succession planning, systems development, sales and marketing, and building/retaining quality teams. MacKenzie can be contacted by email at johnmackenzie@actioncoach.com or by phone at 403-340-0880.

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