Ensuring customer satisfaction is the key to being profitable. The question is, are your daily interactions bulking up your wallet or leaving a hole in your pocket?
The easiest sale you can make is to someone who has bought from you before. Treat existing customers well - it's just smart marketing.
One of the best ways to do this is to make sure that everyone in your business has a thorough understanding of what customers really want. Then use that information to follow up with actions, solutions, and resolutions. It will be the difference between good business and bad.
There are lots of ways to improve customer satisfaction. Here are some of them:
Collect customer feedback. Actively seek and encourage feedback and understand that no news is bad news. Every customer interaction is an opportunity for feedback.
Develop a system that enables you to capture, record and report information quickly and easily. Review feedback regularly and follow up any issues that arise. Commit to a process of constant customer-driven improvement.
Leverage technology to aid your efforts.The widespread use of the Internet and the advent of online survey technology makes the customer feedback process easier than ever.
Fast and cost effective, online systems enable you to send, receive and collate information in real time. In addition, response rates are frequently higher than paper-based surveys as online surveys are quicker and more convenient for respondents to complete.
You can also use customer feedback as part of your employee performance review process. A below-average customer satisfaction rating for a particular consultant can indicate a "red flag" issue that needs to be addressed.
Take action. Remember, however, that merely asking for feedback is not enough - you must establish an effective response process that addresses each issue that arises.
In doing so, you not only encourage people to continue giving you feedback (because they know that you'll do something about it), but research also shows that between 54% and 70% of business from complaining customers can be won back if the process is handled promptly and professionally.
When handling negative feedback, convey the following key messages:
- We listen and don't blame or pass the buck.
- We are responsive to your needs.
- We are committed to improvement.
- We value your business.
In this way you avoid potential customer defection, and stimulate positive word of mouth when the customer tells other colleagues and associates about the timely and professional response he/she received.
Making it easy for your customers to give you regular feedback is not only good business practice - it's also plain common sense.
By letting you know when they are unhappy, customers give you a golden opportunity to correct the immediate problem, restore goodwill and avoid bad publicity.
Customer service no-nos
Sometimes what a customer perceives as rude is merely the result of absent-mindedness or carelessness on the part of an employee.
Either way, bad customer service can translate into lower sales and lost business. Here are a few absolute no-nos:
- Don't let a bad mood reflect in conversations with customers.
- Never hang up on angry customers.
- Don't put off returning calls.
- Don't put customers on hold or on speaker phone without first asking.
- Don't eat, drink or chew gum while talking on the phone. A telephone mouthpiece is like a microphone; noises are easily heard.
- If you have call-waiting, try not to switch between calls frequently. Once is excusable - more than that is not.
- Don't forget basic good manners: "please," "thank you" and "you're welcome".
- Don't hold conversations on the side with colleagues while talking to customers on the phone.
- Do not use one-word answers - be clear and do not lose the customer in jargon. This comes across as rude and uncaring.
- Don't tell customers to call back. Offer to return calls instead.
- Do not rush through calls. If the customer takes too much time, say, "We understand your query and will get back to you as soon as possible".
- If a caller is put through to you in error, transfer the call - don't hang up.
In defence of service workers, customers can be rude too. And service jobs can often be thankless, with little motivation or incentive to do the job right.
It may not be fair, but the unfortunate truth is that customers can be rude and get away with it. Employees cannot.
Win over that dream customer
Finding your ideal customer may be one of the toughest challenges you'll ever face. Here are five tips to get you on the right track:
- Put your best effort into everything that you do. Show potential customers the best material or product that you have and show them why you are the best person to provide it.
- Make an offer that is too good to refuse. Even if you have to absorb a small loss on the first project you do for a new customer, it could be worth it in the long run. It could encourage repeat business, and shows your customer that you are considerate of their needs and budget.
- Give customers every reason to like you. Strive for perfection in every way possible. You need to be the best that you can be in customer service, product design and even personal presentation. Show your dream customer that you are the best company around.
- Don't worry about rejection. Be positive. A lack of confidence can come across in your tone of voice. A constant fear of rejection could prevent you from performing at your best.
- Employees at every stage of the process should strive to build customer satisfaction. Past sales won't be affected, but future sales (and customer recommendations to friends and associates) certainly will. Follow that bit of advice and "have a nice day".
Remember that the customer is not always right; very often they depend on you or your staff to be right and to help them make the right choices. Don't abuse this trust.
Customer feedback systems are not foolproof. Look out for these pitfalls:
- An informal and/or unstructured verbal feedback process.
- Feedback not recorded (for later action and review).
- Feedback system not "owned" or "championed" by management.
- Feedback sought infrequently (once a year is not enough).
Make your research efforts count
Ask the right questions: Don't ask your customer something that can be answered with a yes or no - this won't provide you with the detail you are looking for.
Be impartial: It is easy to "lead" people towards giving you the answer you want. This applies to how you phrase the questions and your body language when in a one-on-one discussion. Take great care to be as objective as possible.
Be realistic: Don't ignore negative research results - they are just as valuable to your business as the positive ones. Use these criticisms to fine-tune what you do.
Net that big fish
Networking can be a valuable marketing tool - or a HUGE waste of time. It all depends on how you do it.
- Meet people. Call, send emails, notes and cards. Make personal contact.
- Circulate when you meet a group at a meeting or seminar. Introduce yourself to as many new people as possible.
- Appear likeable and approachable. Be positive and listen to what other people have to say.
- Follow up on prospective contacts without hounding them. Two follow-up calls are good. Ten are annoying.
- Call your contacts at regular intervals. It could be once a month or once in three months, but keep your network alive.
- Presume or make imaginary distinctions when meeting people. No one should be dismissed as unimportant before you actually meet them.
- Ramble or go off-track when describing your work objectives. After a short prologue about yourself and your job, get straight to the point.
- Fool around with facts. Counter questions, doubts or scepticism with sound, logical explanations, and emphasise your strengths.