Profiles International - Victoria    eNewsletter   June 2010 

The Road to Customer Loyalty: Paved with World Class Service      

"He profits most who serves best."
-Arthur F. Sheldon

I wanted to learn why some customers are loyal and others aren’t. What makes some keep coming back to your business week after week, year after year? And what can be done to encourage that kind of behaviour? As we all know, when you can get an employee to give what’s known as their “discretionary effort” – that little bit that goes above and beyond – not only can a business do more with less in tough times, but customers see that extra effort, they appreciate it, and it encourages them to come back.

Customer loyalty pitfalls
I want to take a few minutes to outline a few things we already know will kill customer loyalty. Based on our research and our work with many companies, here are five sure-fire ways to stifle customer loyalty:

1. Don’t Listen to a Word They Say
Customers complain because they want to be heard. So when they talk, if you really want them to know you don’t care, go ahead and check your Blackberry instead of giving the customer 100% of your attention. If there are a lot details, don’t take notes or the customer may think you’re listening. And above all, when they finish vocalizing their complaints, do not repeat anything back to them. Otherwise they’ll think you understand their issue and plan to do something about it.

2. Never Apologise
Ever listen to a typical politician apologise? “I’m sorry that happened,” they’ll say. Or “Mistakes were made.” Or “I’m so sorry you feel that way.” Everyone knows those are piecrust apologies that crumble at the first touch. An actual apology takes responsibility – if not for what went wrong, then at least for making it right. When a customer complains, the best thing to do after listening sincerely is apologize sincerely. “I’m sorry if you feel that way” isn’t an apology and it might make a customer with a legitimate gripe even angrier. Instead be genuine. “I’m sorry this happened and I understand how you feel. Please know that I take responsibility for making things right.”

3. Thank Yourself, Not the Complainer
Do you really want to wipe out customer loyalty? If so, when a customer has a complaint, if you don’t listen and you don’t apologise, that’s just a start. Many complaints contain valuable information from a customer’s perspective. What better way to learn how to improve your business? So, be sure to congratulate yourself on obtaining helpful new information. But never let the customer catch you appreciating their time or their insights. After all, that person’s just a complainer!

4. Offer Only a Generic Consolation
Want to make an angry customer even angrier? When offering a consolation, be as nonspecific as possible. Whatever the complaint was, take 10% of the bill. Or offer a free meal. Or a 10% discount next time the customer comes in. But whatever you do, don’t ask any specifics and don’t make the consolation fit the complaint. If you dig down and find out what the problem is, then you address it in a meaningful way, the customer will tend to appreciate your service and give you their repeat business – if that’s what you really want.

5. Follow-up is for the birds
After you fix the problem, if you are able to reach out to the customer or customers who complained, don’t! Not if you want to keep them away. If you tell them how much you appreciate their help you will be gaining a lot of credibility and demonstrating how excellent customer service can happen even after “mistakes were made.” Gaining customer loyalty isn’t always a matter of doing everything right. Sometimes it’s about how you handle things when they go wrong. Follow-ups show you care.

Of course, if it’s customer loyalty you’re after, make sure you do the opposite of steps one through five. Every customer complaint is an opportunity to improve your business – but only if you see it that way! Even when a customer is angry, he or she is still being generous with their time. Right?

So be sure to listen. Let them know you appreciate their feedback, even if it’s hard to face. When you say you’re sorry, don’t equivocate. Mean it! Try to make the consolation fit the grievance. And when you’re done, take a little time to follow-up.

There are no big secrets to building customer loyalty. It’s a pretty old-fashioned, low-tech operation. Customer complaints need not ruin your day or even hurt your business. In fact, when handled right, customer complaints can drive loyalty and repeat business!

FROM BUD HANEYS DESK: Bud Haney, President Profiles International

Did You Know?

According to McKinsey, a good customer service strategy should balance costs, quality, and revenues.

Companies that restructure call centres in this way can often cut their costs by up to 25% and boost the revenue they generate by as much as 35%, thereby transforming them into strategic assets providing a competitive advantage.

According to authors and customer service gurus Colin Shaw and John Ivens, 71% of business leaders believe that customer experience is the next corporate battleground.

According to Gartner, 92% of all customer interactions happen via the phone, and 85% of consumers are dissatisfied with their phone experience.

A Toxic Problem Without a Plan

Do you think the Gulf of Mexico would appreciate a contingency plan? One of the greatest environmental disasters of all time struck the Gulf Coast on April 20. An oil rig, located off of the coast of Louisiana, exploded causing three leaks in pipes that are now emitting an estimated 200,000 gallons of crude oil into the ocean every day.

BP is responsible for the oil, but denies responsibility for the actual leak. They place the blame on Transocean Ltd., the operator of the demolished rig, for the catastrophe. Regardless of which company will take the fall for this devastation, the obvious pitfall is that neither company had a contingency plan for an incident of this magnitude. Many are wondering, how can something like this happen today, and why hasn't anyone stopped it yet?

There were warning signs that a leak could occur, but no preventative measures were established; Machines are faulty, and people make mistakes. Had the corporations involved with these machines created plans for emergency situations, this crisis might not even exist.

Companies should always have contingency plans for potential circumstances. Proactively planning for the worst ensures that companies are accountable for their actions. Managers should understand plans made by the company, and also work with employees to create new plans in case of emergency situations.
Contingency plans can be made for everything from employee conflict, to a physical attack on company property, to a company-wide issue, such as an oil spill. Plans should be utilised to secure the problem, and to inform each audience affected by the incident.

The oil spill is a prime example of what happens with poor planning. Had these companies ensured that each rig met production and safety standards, and that if they didn’t there was a way to correct them, the Gulf Coast would not be suffering as it is now.

Retaining Customer Loyalty                      by Megan Bullard

Customer service is one of the most crucial departments in any business. Customer-facing employees portray the image of the company in the eyes of the consumer, and one encounter with an employee can make or break a sale. Imagine this scenario: an excited customer requests online for a service. Because of modern technology, the customer assumes that the service will be performed within a few days of registration. Almost a week later the company calls to set up an appointment time for installation. Annoyed at the amount of time it has already taken to schedule the appointment, the customer grudgingly agrees to the first available time.

The day of the appointment, the technician responsible for installing the service calls to say he is on his way, but the technician does not show up until three hours later. In order for the technician to install the service, the customer needed to be present. The customer's entire afternoon was interrupted by the late technician.

The customer needed the service, and because of the time he had invested he decided to stick with service, but he never recommended the company to anyone because of his experience. Companies with poor customer service or inadequate customer-facing employees risk losing potential clients, and often lose business rather than retain it. Customers have specific expectations when dealing with businesses, and when those expectations are not met or exceeded, companies risk establishing a negative reputation. Word of mouth is one of the most powerful tools in gaining and retaining customers, without recommendations companies cannot expect to expand. A negative story about a bad experience with customer service is more impactful than no recommendation to the company.

How can businesses identify people with high-potential for being effective customer-facing employees?

Customer service assessments can measure how well a person fits specific customer service jobs within an organisation. These assessments evaluate each individual's behaviours, attitudes and skills to determine who is most capable of holding a customer-facing position. Placing a person with poor communication skills or a melancholy attitude in a customer-facing position can result in losing customers rather than gaining them.

Customer service assessments can also evaluate what current and future employees believe is a high level of customer service, while simultaneously showing whether or not they align with the company's perspective. Businesses should strive to solidify the expectations they hold for those involved in customer service, and to communicate those expectations thoroughly. Once a standard has been set it is easier to assess who fits the standard and who does not.

How can companies know if their customers are satisfied with their customer service departments? Customer loyalty surveying tools are available to gather ongoing, critical account intelligence that helps to assess the relationship between the business and the consumer. Insight into the customer's perception of the existing business relationship allows businesses to create a targeted strategy for customer-facing teams in order to continually improve the consumer's relationship with the company.

A company interested in serving customers on every level possible should invest in customer service assessments. These tools are designed to give companies the necessary insight to excel in customer service. One bad experience can ruin a string of potential customer's perception of a company. Having the right people in the right place will enable businesses to exceed customer's expectations and generate more business through their stellar reputation.

Give us a call now 1300 PROFILE  to take advantage of a 50 % price reduction for Profiles' Customer  Service assessments.                                    Offer ends 30 July 2010.




The Road to Customer Loyalty: Paved with World Class Service    

Did You Know?

A Toxic Problem Without a Plan

Retaining Customer Loyalty


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