Build customer loyalty by being committed to customer satisfaction
Customer service seems to be in decline. Do you agree? Do you feel businesses are committed to improving customer satisfaction and loyalty?
If you follow Jeffrey Gitomer, you know that one quality is more important than the other. Jeffrey, an experienced sales trainer and veteran sales person, touts the concept customer loyalty. In fact, he even wrote a book about it.
While at the bookstore recently I came upon a fascinating book, “The Art of Selling to the Affluent,” by Matt Oechsli (Wiley & Sons, 2005). In addition to the obvious information, Matt also chimes in on this topic of customer loyalty. Specifically, he offers his Seven Affluent Loyalty Principles. I recap them here, and offer some additional suggestions. You will see that many of these apply to average customers, as well.
1. “Don’t tell people about your service–show them. Creat a comfortable business atmosphere, on the phone, and especially in your physical place of business. Do not try to impress your affluent customers and clients with grandness. Instead, create an environment that is consistently courteous, comfortable, and helpful.”
Remember that you must provide high quality products and services, as well. Many firms say they offer the highest quality, but far too many fall short. Service tends to take a hit. Promises aren’t kept, and staff may be difficult to reach after the sale. Go beyond what others are doing–more on this in #3–and your customers will stick with you.
2. “Practice hospitality by doing little things. Do not allow anyone else to greet your customers or clients. Be there yourself when they come in the door. Do not make them site in front of a receptionist, waiting for you to get off the phone.”
If possible, eliminate the “voice mail tree” you force everyone to suffer through. Customers are so sick of dealing with that grinding process (“Press 1 to speak with sales. Press 2 to talk with billing…..”) That is so anti-customer. Sure, you may have saved some money by eliminating a position, but at what cost? The affluent, along with everyone else, deserve to be treated with respect. Have a person answer the phone when people call your main number. Eventually they will tire of that maddening process and take their business elsewhere.
3. “Be available to affluent customers or clients 24 hours a day, even if you don’t believe it’s necessary. Forget about normal hours or the Monday through Friday atmosphere….On your personal literature, state something like, “Our office hours are whatever you need them to be.”
This is probably the most challenging of Matt’s suggestion. At first glance it appears that you’re setting yourself up for countless phone calls at all hours of the day and night. When, for example, will you be able to go out to dinner with your better half?
Just because you’re available doesn’t mean you necessarily answer the phone at every hour. You can use voice mail, after all. Keep in mind that you’re working with a higher-end clientele. It is true that some can be very demanding. (True for any subgroup.) But it’s also true that most are understanding. Plus, they are paying more for your products and services, and therefore deserve a higher level of support.
4. “Enable customers or clients to make one call to get the answers. Gather the people you work with and organize a customer or client response team. Distribute the responsibility to be on call among all your team members so that someone is available at all times… Someone should be able to respond to a customer or client call within 15 minutes.”
This flows from the above point. Empower your staff with the knowledge and authority to handle most issues. Very few should require management intervention. Will a junior staffer occasionally make a mistake? Sure, but it’s unlikely to be a fatal one and the process can be a learning experience. You can bet that your client will be pleased with the prompt and knowledgeable assistance.
5. “Never say no. When a customer or client asks, ‘Can you….’ the only answer you give is yes–even if you can’t figure out immediately how to do what the customer or client wants…. Be prepared to respond to anything a customer or client wants, regardless or what it is.”
Like point #3, this one appears initially to be almost impossible to offer. Or, at least, you risk promising more than you could deliver, right? Not really. Matt goes on to say that it’s the mindset that we’re getting to here. Too often we instinctively say “no.” It’s easy to offer that reply, and it doesn’t commit us to any course of action. Unfortunately, it also prevents us from even thinking about a solution.
Avoid the natural tendency to say “no.” Perhaps Matt’s suggestion is too difficult to follow. At least offer a reassuring and tentative reply. Something like, “I don’t know how to address the situation right now, Mr. X, but I promise you we will get on it and get back to you. You can be assured we will develop a solution for you.”
6. “Help customers or clients help you provide Ritz-Carlton-level service…Explain every aspect of what you will be doing for your customer or client, step-by-step.” Matt goes on to provide some examples.
Customers understand that an issue will take time to resolve. Keeping them informed helps them deal with the necessary delay. (Think of the times your flight has been delayed and you had no clue as to why.) Call or email regularly. Your client will appreciate the gesture and better understand your situation.
7. “Set a leadership example. Take control of the relationship from the beginning….Accept that you are the person responsible for affluent loyalty.”
As Matt adds, you can’t expect others in your firm to exhibit the proper attitudes and behavior unless they see them in you first. Plus, this ensures a consistent set of actions and statements. Go a step further and produce a customer service manual so everyone can study and learn from you.
For related reading, see “5 steps to handling customer complaints” and “Customer problems often solved with the smallest gestures.”
What do you suggest to help businesspeople build customer loyalty? What has worked for you? Feel free to comment below.
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