In these days of competitive markets, the business that excels at customer service is the one that will not only maintain their position, but grow. According to Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart: “There is only one boss – the customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else”. I emphatically agreed with him. Indeed, Customers Are Really Everything (CARE). Therefore, if you don’t “CARE” for them, they will take “CARE” of their money elsewhere. Guess where? To your competitors.
You could answer the question “What is Customer service” by saying that it is about “exceeding” the expectations of the client, not just “satisfying” them. This is not just about the product or service that you are selling; it’s about looking after the people buying them from you too.
It is an indisputable fact that loyal, repeat customers are the backbone of every business. Yet, for whatever reason, most businesses tend to place more emphasis on courting new clients than they do in retaining repeat clients. This could lead to a very costly mistake. By simply paying more attention to your repeat clients, you are likely to increase your profitability. How? Plainly put, repeat customers are open to your suggestions to try other services and aren’t probably going to need those deep discounts you offer new clients to motivate them to try your services. And they can be a huge referral source if you keep them happy.
That reminds me many years ago when I newly joined a communication company as a marketing executive. The company was one of the foremost cable TV network and internet service providers in Nigeria as at that time. We had a sizeable market share, but still overly concerned about getting new clients at the expense of retaining the old ones. The loyal customers we had felt we weren’t caring enough because their complaints were not being attended with urgency. For instance, a customers’ internet may be down for days waiting for our technicians. For that reason they sort for alternatives, and started switching to our competitors. Later we discovered that instead of increasing our customer base, we were actually losing them. Then, we switched our strategy but it was too late. By this time many of our old customers were already enjoying good services from our competitors. I remember taking it upon myself to call and visit some of our deserted customers, and was shocked to know how angry they were at us.
Well, is anything wrong in prospecting for more customers? Absolutely not! The rule is, you can appeal to new customers as long as you keep track on your old customers; otherwise you lose them to your competitors. That happened to us as illustrated above. Unfortunately, we tried to appeal favorably to some of our customers to come back, but it didn’t work as many have gained trust and respect from their new found service providers. We could only recover few back to our network. It was a huge lesson back then to our company.
Now, the big question: who is responsible for customer service? Anyone who touches the customer, either directly or indirectly is providing a level of service. The bottom line is: Service is everybody’s responsibility. The service chain includes all people and functions that link up to final delivery to the customer.
People become lifelong customers for very simple reasons such as Respect, Commitment, and Understanding. Offer these basic human needs to customers and they will come back for more.
Respect: Exactly how does one respect a client? By providing an experience in which he or she feels free to make choices. This means not pressuring clients when they are hesitating. If you don’t push, they will feel respected and will respect you for giving them the time to think. They will leave with a good feeling and choose to do business with you again. On the flip side, make sure you provide your customers with abundant information about what you have to offer them. If they have questions, no matter what they are, be willing to answer them honestly and concisely. If you don’t know the answer, volunteer to find out. They will appreciate your honesty. When you actually get back to them with the answer, you will win them over.
Commitment: By staying in touch with your customers, you exhibit a commitment to keeping them happy and involved. When we commit to our customers, and to supplying them with the best, they will commit to our products or services. You can show your commitment with an email, text messages or even call them to let them know about changes in your business and specials you are offering, or by steadily supplying them with information that helps them make better decisions.
Understanding: Probably the most challenging service to offer is UNDERSTANDING. To fully understand the client’s needs, a company must first understand the needs of the target population as well as those of the accessible population. Once a clientele is established, it’s time to learn the needs of each client individually.
Some customers will walk in knowing exactly what they want. Others will be seeking ideas. Understanding where each person is coming from will make him or her return back to your company as a loyal customer. For those clients who know what they want, offer them what they are looking for, and then let them know what else you can offer. You will have met their expectations, but will have also gone out of your way to truly understand their needs. For those clients with only a vague notion of what they want, spend time asking questions and guiding them to a decision with which they feel comfortable. If clients feel understood and have their needs met, they will be lifelong customers.
Remember, customers have the power to make or break a business. If customers enjoy the time spent with your business, they likely become repeat customers and will tell others about their experience. We must also bear in mind that customers are people; treating them with respect, understanding, and showing a commitment to their happiness will create an atmosphere where people want to visit. And that is what leading your customer is all about.
See you at the Top!