It seems a simple concept – treat your customers with respect and they are more likely to feel good about you. And for many businesses, their relationship with their customers is integral to their success.
However, while seeking a house to rent with three friends recently, I realised that some letting agents (but not all) do not pay attention to their customer service, no doubt because house-hunting is for the majority of people a once-a-year activity at the most. Perhaps they ought to realise that although that customer is unlikely to need an estate agent again in the near future, people talk, and the people they talk to are potential new customers. By displaying some simple good manners and good ethics, therefore, they might just win another customer via word of mouth recommendation, and if they are struggling that customer might be the one they need to stop them going under.
Meanwhile, if you are selling something the customer will want or need more frequently you will probably be aware that it is crucial to convey to the customer how much you value them to ensure that they return. Small businesses are often more directly customer-facing than large companies, and you should use that personal relationship to your advantage.
It might seem trivial, but honesty, efficiency and a friendly demeanour will all help to convince them that you are the business from which they will buy the same product or service the next time they need it. If the customer sees you as trustworthy, it will be easier to sell them the benefits of what you offer and to keep them hooked.
The frosty letting agents who rudely let us down the day before signing our contract are now known in at least our four workplaces as unreliable. In contrast, the straight-talking one or two that listened closely to our requirements, tracked down suitable properties for us, stuck to their agreed fees, and did not expect us to bankrupt ourselves for the sake of a period mantelpiece, are the ones that I will recommend to friends embarking on the task of finding their own new homes.
So, whether you offer a one-sale item or service, or your business relies entirely on repeat sales, customer service is not something to be pushed aside like another stack of unwelcome paperwork. Particularly in the current environment, it pays to go that extra mile.
According to a recent Harvard Business Review study, US companies lose half of their customers every five years, with two-thirds of them citing inadequate customer care as their primary reason for leaving...
"If customer loyalty is increased by just five per cent, profits can increase by 25 per cent. "
I often quote the figures from Leboeuf that up to 65% of clients leave you because they feel that you just don't care - you don't make enough effort.
So, how much does it cost for you to acquire one new customer? How long do they stay with you? What is the average gross profit/contribution over the life-time of a customer?
Do a customer survey every three months - find out who is and is not happy with your service (90% of businesses have not done a survey in the last three months!)
Use a customer satisfaction/happiness form after as many customer interactions as possible
Find 10 ways to get closer to your customers right now!
How can you not want to have incredibly loyal customers right now?!
Recently travelled economy class (airline not relevant) to Joburg with knees up under my chin and elbows digging into my neighbour. Sounds like I am getting too old. But… my point…
Economy Airline food!
- Question: “Do the air stewards and flight deck crew eat it?”
- Answer: “No way – they have more sense.”
- So, the next question is: “How come it is good enough to give to the people in ‘cattle class’?”.
- And the answer is: “Because the airline simply doesn’t care about these customers.”
Am I just a victim of my own ‘ology’ (sort customers between platinum/gold/silver/bronze offerings, sack pondlife customers buying on price, focus on giving premium service to premium paying customers)? I think I am and it’s not very nice.
And then I start wondering about the sort of people who run cattle class businesses (hotels, travel companies, etc.) who all focus on the words ‘volume’, ‘cheap’ and ‘profit’. Great stuff for the directors’ bonuses and for the shareholders, but it is not for me!
Bright Marketing – see the chapters on the 80:20 Rule
Nice hotel near Jamie Oliver’s Number 15 restaurant, Newquay. Friendly welcome... but obviously times were hard - they were offering an extra 40% discount - pretty good, eh? The next morning: 06.55am, the ventilation/extractor fan outside our bedroom window kicks off and roars into action. It is so loud it wakes us both up with a jolt. I call reception and explain the situation. They say "You are not the first person to mention it... so sorry... and come to reception when you are ready and mention the problem and we will be able to sort something out with the bill." On departure we go to reception and mention the problem. The reply was, "It's the ventilation system and we have to have it on or we can't open the kitchen for breakfast", followed by "Why should we do something on the bill - you got a good price already"...
The receptionist made me feel as if I had been lying about the offered discount.
Am I simply in the wrong to expect a quiet night's sleep? Should I name and shame the hotel?
PS I have sent them a copy of this blog entry. Exceeding Customer Expectations - A Seven Point Plan - Are customers really in charge when it comes to dealing with organisations?