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Chris Bell on Fixing Customer Service Woes

Chris Bell looks at what businesses must do to not only win, but also retain, customers.

The experience a customer or client has with your company doesn’t just rest with frontline staff – it is a reflection of every facet of your business.

This means everything from the word of mouth recommendation to your website, brochure, advertising, and even the final invoice. Every way that a company ‘touches’ the customer contributes to the total experience, and hence, the total value of the company’s product and services.

If the number one task of any organisation is to attract and retain customers, then the quality of the customer experience you deliver to each and every customer is the 21st century strategy to achieve that.

Retaining customers should be your prime goal. Loyalty reflects the strength of your relationship with customers. The better it is, the stronger the commitment and loyalty. Relationships are not built on a one-night stand. They take time to nurture and effort to sustain.

If your customers/clients have consistently good experiences with you, they will return. So, how do you deliver the complete package?

* Develop a clear, well-communicated vision. A vision is your purpose, your reason for being. If your people don’t understand where your organisation is going, how you are going to get there and the part they will play in making it happen, they will be coming to work JUST to do a job. Getting your people fired up takes more than “JUST a job” in today’s market.

* Inspirational leadership with strong people skills. Leaders see the business from the customer’s view, not through a spreadsheet. Leaders must have clear values and clear ideas about what is important. They need great people skills to look after their people.

* A clear customer experience statement. Just like your company vision, unless all your people understand the sort of customer experience you want to deliver, they will make up their own. Inconsistency is a killer.

* Total commitment from the right people. Make sure you have the right people in the right places and that they know the direction in which you are traveling.

* Identify and prioritise what is important to the customer. It’s all about the customer, not what’s important to the organisation.

* What are the crucial stages in your customer relationships? Customer relationship building is no different from a personal relationship. Be aware of which stage a relationship is at with each customer and ensure that the experience you are actually delivering matches what you say you will do.

* Skill development on the delivery of the customer experience. Educate your people to assume responsibility for the delivery of your customer experience. Ensure they have the resources and empowerment and then allow them to do so.

* Measurement processes to evaluate and fine tune. What gets measured gets done. Everything you put in place must be measurable.

* On-going development. This is a journey. You must have a strong on-going development process in place that captures all those great ideas.

The most powerful influencers on a customer’s experience are your people. Their ability to wow your clients will have a major financial impact on both referrals and additional business. Bad experiences will lead to a negative financial impact, both in terms of lost business and damaged reputation.

A Cost or an Investment?

Of course, it is going to cost. But what about the costs of high staff turnover, customer complaints, lost business, damaged reputations and margins eroded by price competition.

Businesses have a choice and that choice has not changed: continue to pay lip service to the importance of your people and customers and suffer the consequences, or; adopt a total customer focused approach based on the quality of the experiences you consistently deliver.

Commitment to this sort of strategy will give you an advantage your competitors will find hard to copy.


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