“Success is neither magical nor mysterious. Success is the natural consequence of consistently applying basic fundamentals.” – Jim Rohn (“rags to riches” American entrepreneur)
The Goal: Strong Customer Relationships
Savvy business people understand the role excellent customer service plays in their success. They understand that winning customers and building loyalty doesn’t happen overnight and that building strong customer relationships requires a consistent and ongoing effort to retain their customer’s hard-won loyalty.
They know that while pricing is important, loyalty earned through delivering on promises and taking care of customers will often win the sale and keep the customer, even where pricing may be a bit higher.
Savvy business people also understand how fragile customer relationships are and how easily hard-won loyalty can be lost through poor customer service and issues not quickly resolved to the customer’s satisfaction.
Most customers understand an occasional misstep or problem that is handled quickly and with care. What they usually won’t tolerate is neglect, rudeness, not delivering on promises, unnecessary bureaucracy, and inconsistency, to name a few. This is especially true when other competitors are eager and hungry for their business.
Strong Customer Relationships Are Built with Consistency
The importance of consistency, in particular, is huge. Customers want to have confidence that we’ll deliver on our promises every time, not just when it’s convenient.
In fact, if we consistently deliver good products and services across our organization, if we mean what we say and say what we mean, if we underpromise and overdeliver, the potential for our organization to not only grow but reach extraordinary heights is real. It won’t guarantee success but it will lay the foundation for us to achieve more and it will usually separate us from our competitors.
The Consequences of Poor Customer Focus
Companies like McDonald’s and Starbucks weren’t always big guys. They started out small and grew. And their growth was laid on a foundation of consistency, in their market, in terms of the quality of their products and their service. When consumers choose them over an unknown competitor they usually do so because their brand has a reputation for consistency in the products and service they provide.
Unfortunately, seriously great service coupled with a great product seems to be rare. It often seems that in the decision-making stage we woo customers with pleasant service and fast turnaround, but once they sign up for the service it’s a whole new experience.
I saw this firsthand recently when a customer bought a service that looked and sounded great, on the surface. The service promotes itself saying its “easy to use functionality and user interface will leave you wanting more!” But after buying the product, trying to get a response from the support department takes days, and that’s if they respond at all. And the supposedly “easy to use functionality” seems to be an empty promise. Can you guess how the customer might feel about this company now? Is the company building a strong customer relationship?
For some businesses, it almost seems that they’ll say pretty much anything to get the business and do pretty much nothing to keep it.
When customers make a decision to do business with us, will they discover that we’ve underpromised on what we will deliver? This is the type of experience that people hope for and the type they talk about and share with others, with positive results for our business. Of course, they’ll talk and share if we don’t do this too, but the results won’t be so positive.
A Social Reputation
And with the growing prominence of social media, managing our reputation online and offline is more important today than it has ever been. And negative feedback is something we don’t need.
Once the customer has decided to do business with us, once they’ve paid for the product or service, what follows will set us apart from the pack. It will differentiate us in a good way or a not so good way. Those of us running any size of successful business know firsthand that building customer loyalty isn’t an overnight effort. It’s an ongoing one that can make the difference between success and failure. And consistency in every area plays a key role.
- Create opportunities for salespeople and customer service staff to meet to share problems and possible solutions to customer service related issues. This can help break down silos between departments and build staff relationships and ownership, all of which impacts customer service.
- Conduct an online survey and invite customer feedback on their experience with your business.
- Ensure your marketing materials make promises you’re able to keep. Ask your staff to provide input and suggest revisions for consideration.
- Do you always know the top five issues customers have? Fix them!
- Set up automated responses to incoming client emails, to ensure nothing falls through the cracks. Provide clients with a time frame for expecting your response.
- Monitor customers on all their social streams to catch praise or dissatisfaction and buoy or repair reputation.