If I asked you: “Have you ever been the victim of bad customer service?”, you would probably answer: “Yes Patrick, three times ... just in the last week!”
According to a recent article in the Journal des affaires, only 40% of Quebec businesses really care about customer service! UNBELIEVABLE! It costs ten times less to sell to a current customer than to a new customer. So, while you’re investing large sums of money advertising to attract new customers, make sure you offer them excellent customer service to earn their loyalty and to encourage them to give you referrals.
It can take thousands and thousands of dollars and months and months to find a customer ... but just a few seconds to lose one. Customer service isn’t the responsibility of a single department, but of all employees in your company. Too many hours of employee training are devoted to products and not enough to relationship skills. ALL employees in an organization should be trained in customer service.
Customer service begins by analysing your strengths and weaknesses. Survey your current customers: LISTEN TO THEM! Listen to their greatest needs, their strongest desires, their worst fears, their biggest frustrations, and so on. If you want to provide good customer service, you need to know what good service means to your customers. When was the last time you surveyed your clients?
Welcoming your customers is essential. It takes only a few seconds for someone to get an impression of your organization. Are your customers able to talk to a human being when they call or do they have to speak to a voicemail system with twelve options? How many times does the phone ring before someone answers? How long, on average, are your customers put on hold? How long does it take for you to return your calls?
If customers visit you, how do they rate the cleanliness of your premises? Is your lawn well-maintained and weeds removed? Are your employees easily identifiable by their clothing, and do they wear your organization's logo and a name tag?
Do you greet your customers by name with a smile (rather than a sigh), with eye contact and “hello” in the first five seconds, even when you're busy with another client? Do you offer coffee and cookies to guests in the waiting room? Do you stimulate the five senses of your clients (sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch) as soon as they enter your establishment?
It’s important to understand that the growth of an organization is built one client at a time. If the majority of organizations took better care of their customers, they would eventually reach new clients via word of mouth and wouldn’t need to advertise. Advertising is used primarily to attract new customers. So, what are you doing to create and maintain your customers? Do you follow rules and procedures or do you keep trying to satisfy your customers?
Who are your bestsellers? Your current customers are! Statistics indicate that each satisfied customer speaks on average to three other people. You need to recognize that you are sitting on a gold mine. The problem is that you probably are just sitting on it! Continue to offer the same quality of service that you started with. Have you ever calculated the lifetime value of a customer? His loyalty, his small repetitive purchases and the references he brings you are worth tens and maybe hundreds of thousands of dollars. Indeed, it is 15 times easier to sell to a referred customer than during a cold call.
A reputation takes years to build but can be lost in an instant. When you do business with a client, you represent the entire company to him. There are no bad people, only people in the wrong place. Be sure to hire the right people and give them appropriate training before they come in contact with your customers. The first hiring criterion for a person who must be in contact with your customers is attitude rather than experience. If they have both — even better!
Is the customer really "always right"? Of course not! The customer is always right in the sense that if they decide to spend their money elsewhere, you may have to close your doors! In this sense, they are always right because they talk with their wallet. The customer will always be the true boss of your business. They are the one who really pays your salary. Treat each customer as if the whole world revolves around them ... because in a sense, it does! If you don’t take good care of your customers, who will? Yes, your competitors!
The three worst sentences to say to a customer are: “It's not my job!”, “We’ve always done it that way!”, and “Sorry, that's our policy!”. Don’t forget that your customers also have their own policy: spending money with your competitors if they aren’t satisfied. Remember, a dissatisfied customer speaks on average to eleven people.
When you do business with your customers, don’t make it all about money. The customer must feel that you value their well-being above all else and that they mean more than just money in the bank. Invest in your relationships by being personally interested in them. Call them by their first name if you’ve known them for a long time. Ask them what they like to eat, their favourite vacation spots, and ask about their children and grandchildren etc. If your attitude is selfish rather than altruistic, the customer will always feel it.
One of the only ways to set yourself apart from your competitors is through your relationship with your client.
You keep your customers by keeping your promises and fulfilling your commitments. Read this sentence several times: “The promise is written in marble for the one who hears it and in the sand for the one who said it.” Service does not sell, service resells. If you offer excellent service, if you always respect your promises and your customers’ time, they will come back. If not, then they won’t!
It’s no longer enough to give satisfaction to your customers to succeed. You need to stand out and surpass their expectations. Be different and unique. For example: accompany your customers to an in-store item instead of just pointing it out; help them get their products into their cars; have pizza delivered to your best customers; send them handwritten thank you notes; give them surprise gifts; give three golf balls with your logo on it to your golf enthusiast; offer free high-speed internet to your customers in the waiting room; send a free newsletter like the one you are reading now, etc. Be creative and always pamper your customers to make them say: "WOW!"
Do you sometimes tend to take your customers for granted? Here are the main causes of the loss of a client: 1% death of an employee/insolvent, 3% moving, 5% purchase from a friend or relative, 9% price, 14% bad service and 68% indifference. Never take your customers for granted. Make sure to frequently thank your customers. It’s strongly advised to organize a party, an outing or a recognition activity for your best clients at least once a year.
In conclusion, the two main benefits of excellent customer service are loyalty to your existing customers which encourages them to purchase more of your products and services and gaining the referrals for new customers.