How to Ensure Strong Customer Service and Customer Satisfaction
(Note that nonprofits might use the term “clients” rather than “customers”)
Increasing competition (whether for-profit or nonprofit) is forcing businesses to pay much more attention to satisfying customers, including by providing strong customer service. It may help the reader to notice the role of customer service in the overall context of product or service development and management. See Product and Service Development.
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In addition to the articles on this current page, also see the following blog that has posts related to Customer Service and Satisfaction. Scan down the blog’s page to see various posts. Also see the section “Recent Blog Posts” in the sidebar of the blog or click on “next” near the bottom of a post in the blog. The blog also links to numerous free related resources.
Customer Service Basics
© Copyright Barb Lyon
Servicing a customer is a part of every purchase and interaction with internal and external contacts. It can last a few seconds up to hours. So if we all do it and experience it everyday in almost everything we do, why isn’t good customer service the norm?
We all have stories about when we were treated exceptionally well or extremely poorly. We tend to share these extraordinary stories with others. We all know that word of mouth marketing can be the absolute best advantage, or the worst drawback for a company.
Warren Buffett said it best: “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently. “
A few basic rules about customer service:
Honesty is the Best Policy. Integrity – Be honest and own up to your mistakes. Communicate what you plan to do to change or prevent the same mistake from happening again. Don’t be fooled into believing that a regular ‘mea culpa’ will get you off the hook. At some point the plan to fix the problem must take effect!
Break Glass in Case of Fire. Response Time – The best tact is to quickly get on the phone with the customer to explain your company’s mistake. Don’t rely on email for this communication if it can be done quickly one on one. If you are communicating to a large customer base then email is certainly the fastest and most effective way to quickly notify your customers that you are aware of the problem. Frequent updates is there is a protracted issue and a brief overview of how you will prevent it from happening in the future will give your customers confidence that you are aware of the customer impact.
Keeping it Real. Set a Realistic Expectation – Customers who have been promised something that isn’t delivered as promised are far more frustrated and disappointed than if they are notified at the outset they won’t have it sooner than later. In other words, under promise and over deliver is the best policy. This may take some arm wrestling with other departments who want to take a feature or product to market before it is ready. Set the expectations correctly internally as to what the fallout may be so everyone understands the impact to customer satisfaction and ultimately customer retention.
R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Everyone in your company should love your customers. Without them, you have no company. This doesn’t mean you won’t have difficult customers who will push the limits and try everyone’s patience. But if you don’t have a company philosophy to respect and appreciate your customers, the opposite tone will infect customer interactions from all departments. All departments, customer facing or not, should care about customer satisfaction.
From Gandhi, “We must become the change we want to see in the world.”
Use these 4 tenets as the foundation for your customer service mission. What do you do to ensure your customers are treated as your most important asset?
Customer Service Basics
Customer Service Strategies – Self-Help is IN
Don’t Forget About Gathering Client Feedback
Outstanding Customer Service A Call Out to Leadership
Empowered Employees for a Unequivocal Customer Experience
5 Principles of Customer Care
How to Host a Customer Event
7 Finishing Touches for Your Customer Service Strategy | Inc.com
Showing Customer Love
Why Complaints Are Gifts
© Copyright Barb Lyon
First question you should ask yourself…How do you measure customer satisfaction?
If you are measuring by the # of complaints you are or are not receiving, you are in trouble. Not everybody bothers to take the time to tell you about his/her horrible experience. If you are asking your customers if they are satisfied, you are telling them that their satisfaction matters.
There are many different ways to ask: post-purchase and post-support surveys, enclosures in the monthly invoice, follow-up phone calls and quarterly or annual surveys. The right method depends on your business and your customer base. Try different ways. Just do it.
Let’s be clear: if you’re not measuring any part of your service delivery, you are missing a huge opportunity to improve, grow or even save your business during these scrutinizing, tight economic times.
The challenge with specifying key indicators is that not all businesses will use the same metrics. For example, a retail or fulfillment organization will have decidedly different key performance indicators than a software-as-a-service company.
For the purposes of this discussion, I have highlighted relatively general metrics and incorporated a few varying perspectives for different use cases.
Service Level – For call centers, support, and service desks, first call resolution is the Holy Grail. For a shipping operation, product delivery and project implementation, on-time performance is the measuring stick. In a high transaction business, the first interaction with a customer will be a key determinant of whether the customer will return. Don’t underestimate the importance of timeliness and thoroughness.
Customer Retention – For SaaS businesses, Utilization is the best indicator of a customer’s dedication to your service. Use this metric to understand who is at risk at contract renewal time. Monitoring Repeat Business is going to help non-SaaS businesses understand how sticky their product or service is for their customer base. You should know which customers are using or buying different parts of your business. These customers who buy throughout your offerings are perhaps your most important customers to focus on for your retention strategies.
Response time – You’d be surprised how many customer surveys come back with comments such as “your service is great, you got back to me right away….” “I was surprised with how quickly you responded to my inquiry and it made all the difference even if I didn’t get the answer I was hoping for…” In today’s world of electronic relationship management, response time is one of the only ways we can communicate our sense of urgency and concern for our customers and their experience with our product or service. What is your Response goal – within X hours? Set one and achieve it. You should know what your competition is doing and beat their goal.
Want to really blow away a customer and cement your relationship? Pick up the phone and give them a personal call.
Time with the Customer – Are your customer-facing employees incentivized to keep calls short or to move too quickly from customer to customer? If so, you are sending the wrong message and subsequently affecting the quality of the customer interaction. There is a definite happy medium between the overly chatty service provider and the thorough and efficient provider. Set your benchmarks for call duration and general time with the customer in relation to the ultimate goal of first call resolution, NOT the other way around.
In other words, a completely satisfied customer not requiring a follow-up call or visit is much preferred over a quick, unresolved interaction.
Churn – Cancellations and returns are the equivalent to churn. If you don’t know how much business you are losing, you won’t be able to understand how much new business you will require to stay out of the red. As important as knowing how much, is understanding WHY you are losing customers. Take it to the next level and use follow-up surveys, phone calls, personalized ‘how can we get you back’ emails. This survey information is the real business insight for understanding your lost business.
By all means this is not a comprehensive list of key performance indicators. To expand further we would need to focus on a particular business model to provide a more granular perspective. Start measuring and start making changes. Continue to evolve your key metrics as your business evolves. Keep this process circular for continuous improvement.
Post these key performance indicators in your facility or on your intranet and regularly communicate them to your employee base to give everyone in your Company sensitivity to how you are performing for your most important asset: your Customers.
© Copyright Barb Lyon
In our world of customer service, it is our mission to keep customers.
“It is a privilege to serve you”, that is what the Banker told me today when I called for information regarding refinancing. Do your employees believe that serving your clients is a privilege? Do your clients feel like they are appreciated?
Nowadays a lot of consumer product and service companies are asking for feedback. Some companies incorporate the ‘how are we doing’ insight as a deep part of their company culture. Salesforce.com has a place for employees and customers alike to log their feedback. In “Behind the Cloud”, Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff explains how and why they spent money to build their IdeaExchange forum. Many e-commerce sites ask at the end of a sale for feedback about the shopping experience. Brick and Mortar stores are now enticing shoppers to log in and provide feedback on their shopping experience in exchange for a ‘prize’.
What about the business-to-business companies? With customers locked into contracts, the same drive to listen and improve is not always as entrenched into the company culture. We can change that. Start by listening.
There are several easy-to-use, cost-effective online survey solutions now to help you launch a Listening Campaign. Polaris Marketing provides you with some sample questions if you are new at this. Survey Monkey, Question Pro, and Zoomerang are just a few online resources that will not only help you with the logistics of doing a survey but also help you formulate a strategy so you get the answers you need.
Online Surveys are not the only option. Make calls to a % of your client base every quarter or send out a brief survey with your monthly invoice. Depending on your product or service, this simple effort may be a huge differentiation for you.
Make sure your survey will give you actionable feedback. In other words, ask questions that will give you answers about specific experiences as your customer so you will know what to fix. General questions like “ Are you happy with your experience in working with us” give you a good indication of how your customers are feeling, but if they answer in a negative way you won’t know what part of the experience needs fixing.
Once you are ready to rollout a survey, you still have much more work to do. The most important element in asking for feedback is deciding what you are going to do about what the surveys say. Don’t bother asking if you don’t intend to allocate the time, resources or money to making changes.
Now it is time to put the feedback into actionable – who, by when and how – plans to make changes. You won’t be able to fix everything at once, but it is important for both your employees and your customers to see real change as a result of the surveys. Be realistic about what you can accomplish and set both short-term and long-term goals.
Now that you have launched your Listening Campaign, you will have the process for next time all mapped out. Quarterly? Semi-Annually? Annually? Whatever timeline works best for you and your business to ensure the feedback is put to use.
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