CUSTOMER SERVICE: SEPARATING AVERAGE AND EXCEPTIONAL BUSINESSES
The customer is always right. This slogan (which was originally attributed to Harry Gordon Selfridge who established Selfridges Department Store in London in 1908) was coined to encourage staff to provide better service to customers. Over the years, different versions have evolved. The French quote: ‘le client n’a jamais tort’ (the client is never wrong). Germans say ‘der Kunde ist König’ (the customer is king) and in Japan, the motto is ’okyakusama wa kamisama desu’ (the customer is a God).
Obviously, customers are not always right. However, keeping customers happy is essential so that businesses can make the leap from average to exceptional.
With the recent proliferation of social media and the power these online platforms give customers to spread negative feedback and opinions, happy customers are more important than ever before. Access to millions of readers is possible in the blink of an eye and damage due to poor customer service can be irreversible. Reputation is like fitness: hard to gain but easy to lose.
What can organizations do to ensure that they become exceptional businesses?
The answer is simple: nurture your customers so that they remain loyal to you.
As technology evolved over the past 30 years, long-suffering customers have had to deal with Interactive Voice Response (those annoying choices that guide you through a labyrinth to eventually reach a recorded message), Inbound Call Centres, Outbound Call Centres, unfathomable accents from overseas-based contact centres, chat boxes, chatbots and the latest artificial intelligence solutions. While these solutions might start with the customer in mind, many businesses that implement them forget that in the end they are dealing with people.
Let’s look at some statistics:
- A customer who has had a problem successfully resolved is more likely to be loyal than a customer without any problems and on average will tell 5–10 others about the experience.
- It is ten times more expensive to acquire a new customer than to keep an existing one.
- 90% of customers who switch to a competitor do so due to poor service. A satisfied customer will stay with an inferior product if they feel they are well looked after.
- On average, a customer is worth ten times more than the original purchase value.
- Gartner’s research states that 80% of a company’s future revenue comes from 20% of its existing customers.
- 74% of businesses trust recommendations over direct sales contacts.
By following the tips below, you will be on your way to becoming an exceptional business:
- Treat your customer as your partner. A customer contributes to the success of a business. Recognize that contribution and remember to show your appreciation to them.
- Listen to your customers. Unfortunately, listening skills are fast disappearing in many areas of business. Establish an effective system that allows you to monitor and capture feedback as well as a procedure for responding to and acting upon that feedback.
- Build trust with your customers. Trust is built on a foundation of openness and truth, so be willing to share good news AND bad news. Customers will value your honesty.
- Keep your word. Always keep promises you make to your customers.
- Be transparent. Don’t hide – accept criticism if it is valid. Take control and enable your business to effectively deal with customers by responding quickly and positively to any queries.
The goal for most businesses should be customer loyalty. Loyalty is when a customer is happy to do business with you even if there are adequate (or even superior) alternatives to your solution.
Reduce the burden on resources by focusing on customer loyalty and through implementing systems that effectively manage and enhance business operations.