Happy Customers – Some Lessons in Customer Care for SME Businesses.
Customer care comes naturally in some businesses while some businesses simply fail to recognize the importance of their customers. This blog explores acceptable standards of customer service and the impact excellent customer service has on customer loyalty and profitability.
Customers need to be seen as the highest priority focus in any business. If you are not entirely focused on satisfying your customers, you may find that your competitors will go the extra mile and the customers may no longer belong to you. Good companies go to enormous lengths to ensure that their customers are satisfied.
Many businesses claim to have a strong customer care focus, but delivering on this is not easy. Unless it becomes embedded in the company culture, and people get rewarded for customer service excellence, it may become a good intention that is not consistently fulfilled in reality. In my view, small and medium businesses need to consistently deliver excellent customer service and to clearly recognize the need to go the extra mile to delight their customers.
So what is an acceptable standard of customer care and what is below standard? The answer is pretty straight forward. What we must all remember is that we are customers in our own right and we have interactions with businesses at a personal level. If you go to a local restaurant and the concierge ignores you or is too engrossed in conversation with colleagues to welcome you and your custom, undoubtedly you will fell peeved and may not frequent the restaurant again.
Now imagine that a customer of your business has this same feeling of indignation because you or one of your colleagues has not shown proper respect to them. Remember, it is your customers and the money they spend that pays your wages at the end of every pay period. We all want to feel that our custom is valued, and that businesses we interact with recognize we have a choice as to where we spend our dollars.
The goal here is to make customers feel valued; that their custom means something to each and every one of the employees they interact with; and that each customer feels warm and loyal when they complete their transaction with your business. This is the only standard of customer service that is acceptable.
It is far easier to retain a satisfied customer than to win a new one. If a customer has a good experience with your firm they will probably tell a few people about it. If they have a bad experience with your firm, they are likely to tell ten times as many people.
The impact of customer service experience on your business is enormous. If the experience is a good one, or better still, always a good one, then your business will attract customer loyalty that increases the frequency of purchases as well as the transaction size. This has a real impact on the profitability of your business. It also has a multiplier effect because satisfied customers will spread the word and this will attract even more loyal customers who will spend even more with your business. Unfortunately, the converse also applies. If you provide lousy service you will inevitably lose customers and the amounts they will spend in your business will diminish or disappear over time.
Your employees need to take responsibility, both individually and collectively, for delivering on your business’s customer service excellence promise. Ideally, you should have systems and procedures to ensure that customer care is fully embraced by all employees. Your performance management system must regularly measure employee performance and customer care should remain high on the list of priorities.
When there is absolute recognition of customer service goals and priorities at every level of your business, your customers will recognise this and become loyal to your business and its brands. High customer care performance by employees must in turn be rewarded through open recognition in staff meetings, in front of colleagues in the workplace, as well as through financial reward within the remuneration packages of individual employees.
If you don’t already have one, you should consider putting a customer relationship management (CRM) system in place, which can enhance your ability to manage customer relationships efficiently and effectively. Your sales/CRM system should embed all key information in relation to each customer into each individual customer record. Don’t forget to include personal information about each customer and his/her family if you have this information. This can be particualrly useful in deepening the relationship with clients. Feel comfortable talking about their favorite passtimes and enquire about family members if these topics have been raised before.
Every touch should be recorded in the system, irrespective of how the communication is initiated. Service requests need to be closely monitored and you ought to put systems in place to prevent any one individual in the business dropping the ball.
I am a fan of Kip Tindell, CEO of The Container Score. I would highly recommend reading his book about the evolution of his business, if you want a masterclass in customer service. It’s called “Uncontainable” and it is available in all good book stores as well as on Amazon.com.