Good service leads to life-long customers

In our thriving economy, just about every business and organization I speak with are experiencing the same general concerns — sales and staffing issues.

In our thriving economy, just about every business and organization I speak with are experiencing the same general concerns — sales and staffing issues.

The foundation for both of these significant profit-busting problems quite often boils down to simple customer service.

There are three operational factors that define good customer service.

Deliver consistently

This is the most important aspect of all. It takes time and effort to build the systems and train your team to ensure that orders are processed systematically, that the services are delivered with the same consistency, so that customers develop a sense of trust in your products and services.

Make it easy to buy

Everything from the ability to reach the right contact people, website navigation and phone and e-mail protocol, to payment methods, delivery choices and post-purchase follow-up. Do as much “market research’’ as you need to, to make sure buying from you is both simple and satisfying.

Deliver the WOW factor

Do the unexpected. It doesn’t have to be big, just genuine and different from your competitors.

If you can deliver a genuine, responsive attitude in your company you will build customer trust and loyalty.

But remember, if you can’t deliver the first two, the WOW factor is irrelevant.

There is no doubt that a customer’s interaction with front-line employees has a direct impact on their overall perception of the business. It’s the first impressions reality.

Remember, the number 1 reason customers leave is because of perceived indifference.

Truthfully, few companies have a clear, comprehensive plan to achieve a high level of quality service. And those that have service standards and policies tend to focus on compliance rather than implement a recognized, organizational-wide service culture.

Companies that are truly service-oriented promote a culture — a spirit of service — throughout the organization. Even those employees who never see a customer value this culture, and do whatever they can to help the team. The shipping department may never talk to a single customer, but they know that the salespeople (and the company) look bad if the order doesn’t get out on time.

The theories surrounding relationship or consultative sales have been around for years. Consider this sales approach.

It positions your company as one that solves problems, not one that just pushes product. Your customer then becomes your partner.

These days, it’s a fact that the buyer has done some research and is well-informed.

With easy access to product reviews and pricing comparisons, many have made some decisions by the time they contact you.

Plus, friends and family share positive buying experiences with their friends and family instantly.

Survey your current clients to discover what interests them. This can be done in an anonymous format like the “How are we doing?” cards or an email survey. You can also have that informal conversation about their buying experience.

The best I have found, is hiring a third party to do a telephone survey. The customer is much more likely to tell the truth if it is not you or an employee calling.

Customer feedback can be gold. There is no stronger way to increase retention than by having customers rate your products and services and buying experiences. A single contact can lead to a strong and trusting relationship.

You should also develop a system to gather and organize customer feedback — including how to implement changes — and most importantly, a process for notifying customers when suggestions/concerns have been addressed.

There are even times, when handled properly, customer complaints can translate into a sales opportunity. A calm, respectful response focused on reasonable solutions will always translate to a positive outcome.

Learn how behavioural characteristics influence the buying/selling interactions. When you let the customer drive the conversation you gain a true understanding of where the problems exist and what the solutions may be.

Depending on your business products and/or services, it’s important to stay informed about your client’s business. In some cases, it’s useful to know information of a more personal nature: family stories, where they like to vacation, sports or hobbies they enjoy, the charities they support. Remember, companies don’t buy things — people do.

Statistics indicate that it is six times more expensive to find new customers than to service existing ones. In other words, keeping customers for life is six times more profitable than attracting new customers.

John MacKenzie is a certified business coach and authorized partner/facilitator for Everything DiSC and Five Behaviours of a Cohesive Team, Wiley Brands. He can be reached at john@thebusinesstraininghub.com.

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