It's a truism that happy customers keep coming back. And when it comes to customer service, almost every company talks a good game. Most companies claim to value its customers, to respect its customers, to have its customers' best interests at heart. But the real question is whether a company is prepared to put its money - its time and people - where its mouth is.
To build a customer-focused strategy you have to go beyond providing the best product or service. You must maximize customer satisfaction which translates into repeat business and good word of mouth referrals. That means you need to do two things. First, make customer service a driving force of your company that is incorporated into every aspect of your business, focusing heavily on training. Second, in addition to training all employees you must be responsive to customer needs. So maintaining constant communication with the customer during every stage of the sales process, including calling the customer before and after the sale to gather the customer's input. It's really about building a great customer experience.
Ninety-five percent of all business owners believe that their companies are exceeding customer expectations in terms of service. That is far from the truth. Poor service and poor communication ranks as the top consumer complaints according to most research. Yet, in a competitive economy good customer service is a matter of survival. And, becoming a customer service leader is one of the least expensive ways of improving your company's performance. It is important to understand how critical customer service is to your business. Small business owners are much worse than large business when it comes to addressing customer concerns because too many operate under the idea that there are an infinite number of customers and if someone doesn't like how they run their business, too bad. This is a serious error if you want to grow your small business and increase profits. You need customers to be satisfied, you need them to keep coming back, and you need them to tell others about your business. The following are some actions you can take to build a customer focused strategy:
1. Make customer service a focus from the top down. Senior managers and company owners must be just as focused as the sales people, customer representatives, superintendents and other employees in your company. Every aspect of your business should be concerned with ensuring the satisfaction of your customers all the way through every interaction with your company. Once you have determined what your customers want from your company, you must evaluate every aspect of your organization to determine how each department works toward satisfying those needs. And you must be prepared to reshape operations to fit your customer strategy. This can mean retraining employees or altering major parts of the business structure which is crucial if you want to continue to grow your business.
2. Hire carefully. Not everyone is temperamentally suited for dealing with customers. Make sure the people you hire are capable of dealing with upset customers without losing their cool. Remove any employees who are inattentive to customer needs. There are some people who are simply not suited to interacting with customers. No amount of training or company culture will overcome this. A surprising number of companies tolerate poor customer service from an employee because they are afraid of losing that person's technical skills. But employees who show disinterest toward customers don't win their company any new business or even maintain existing business.
3. Train your employees. Make sure your employees know your customer service goals and have been fully trained in how to handle customers. Company policies for dealing with customer issues should be clearly stated and understood by employees. There are financial benefits when training employees in customer service because a better trained staff can handle much more work and keep many more customers coming back.