Ask yourself this question, “are you meeting or exceeding customer expectations”? If the answer is no then you had better find out why as there are a lot of hungry competitors out there chasing your customers. When you face a shrinking market the task is to get more of the remaining market. Customer’s service should be your starting point as it covers all the key elements influencing customer decision- making. The basic’s like making immediate eye contact when approached by a potential customer followed by a cheery hello set the scene. Then it’s the presentation, merchandising, price and after sales service that comes into play.
Of course delivering service excellence consistently should be the objective of every business. But in good times we tend to get a little complacent and take our customers for granted, however you do so at your own peril.
I kept a sign in my office to remind me, ‘we are in business to create a customer and then to satisfy the needs of that customer’ Too often we get bogged down looking for ways to maximize profit often at the expense of the customer which ultimately comes back to bite us. So we need reminding from time to time that you can’t make a profit without customers. The successful business operators know that ‘customer service’ is a profit centre not a cost centre. Research over a long period of time reveals it costs 5 times more to get a new customer than it costs to hold to an existing one. Plus part of delivering ‘service excellence’ includes getting things right the first time so you don’t have to go back and fix costly mistakes.
Service is the process we use to provide customer satisfaction then all things being equal the reward is retention.
SERVICE = SATISFACTION = RETENTION
My definition of customer service is “I want what I want, when I want it, delivered with speed, efficiency and courtesy”. To achieve this objective you must run your business to suit the needs of your customer but to do so you have to know what it is they want and what they want today can be quite different from what they may want tomorrow. Steve Jobs mantra was “it’s our job is to know what the customer wants before the customer does”. So an effective ongoing dialog with customers is just common sense.
Depending on the size of the business there are various methods for acquiring this knowledge. Historically focus groups and surveys have been used to gather customer information. These days social networking using ‘Facebook’ and twitter are useful but I always found the most effective way to acquire knowledge about my customers interest and needs is to engage in direct conversation with them. In my former company Budget Car Rentals our policy was for all our executives, mangers and department heads to spend one day a month working in the retail environment, talking to customers and the people who serve those customers so we all kept abreast of their changing expectations.
Knowing customers needs and interests enabled us to create new products and services aimed at meeting their expectations. Another policy we embraced was to introduce an innovation every six months, something that had not previously been done in our industry. The innovation could be a new product or service but more often than not it was systems and processes that were redefined or streamlined to improve our customers experience when renting a car from us.
Much of service excellence is achieved by ‘doing the ordinary things extraordinarily well, consistently.’ So the challenge is to create a work environment where this becomes common practice by all who work within the organization. For this to occur it must be a happy workplace. Happy employees not only project their happiness to those who we do business with but are generally are the most productive employees.
So we need a work environment where employees….
• Look forward to coming to work each day.
• Get satisfaction out of what they do.
• Are recognized for their performance.
• Work as a team.
• Have fun along the journey.
The Team Work component of this environment is of particular importance as it lays the foundation for achieving service excellence. For in most businesses the delivery of the end product relies on the performance of more than one person. The way the phone is answered, how a customer is greeted, the skill of a sales person and the way in which after sales service is delivered are a few examples of the need for teamwork. Every customer contact has to be a triumph, one failure in the line of service delivery and it all collapses.
To help achieve consistent service triumphs we used to rely on the principal of ‘Can Do’. Within reason, whatever a customer wanted we would respond with a ‘Can Do’. It meant we had to go that extra distance to satisfy customers, whether they were external or internal. Delivering consistent service excellence requires a team effort by often a myriad of behind the scene individuals and each needs to be regularly recognized for their unfailing support.
Finally, looking for ways to add value to your relationship with customers is a must. Offering something that was;
• Un-asked for.
Builds loyalty and cements relationships.
This could be a simple as sending a hand written letter to a valued customer thanking her or him for their patronage or maybe a free sample, which could also lead to a future sale of the product. Where applicable an upgrade of a hotel room or rental car for regular customers is a good idea and usually delights the customer.
In business you need to be ‘VERY VERY GOOD AT WHAT YOU DO.
Article by Bob Ansett – Monkey Business Magazine