This is the age of the customer. Yes, the customer is King, Queen and Ruler of our retail landscape.
I remember decades ago when my purchases were made on one of two determiners; was the product or service that I required within actual driving distance or, was it a price I could afford?
In the 21st century marketplace of online shopping and efficient delivery systems, driving distance rarely matters. Sure, the product has to be affordable, but its usually a choice of 20 or 200 providers. My choice as a consumer is like a web of bottomless options and vivid, in-your-face demands for attention.
As the market shifts from a transactional to a relationship economy, it’s no longer enough to just sell the product or service you offer; it’s about building a relationship, fostering a rapport and making your customer feel special.
This is not news to many business leaders, particularly those savvy enough to have put the customer at the heart of their business for years. It comes as no real surprise then, that one of the key findings in the July 2015 report from the Institute of Customer Service (ICS) reiterates exactly that;
A long term focus on the quality of relationships with customers is critical in ensuring your business thrives in the current economy.
The report shows a three-year trend of a very strong link between customer satisfaction, sales growth and market share. The simple fact is, those businesses with the most satisfied customers have
outperformed their competitors.
The latest UK customer satisfaction report also highlights a rather frightening statistic for many businesses who assume their customer service is good. Good is not enough. Great is not enough.
Outstanding is what is required if your customer service is to translate to profit.
Joanna Causon, Chief Executive of ICS, states that:
“…(in terms of customer satisfaction) organisations need to be aiming for a nine or ten out of ten rating if they aspire to build sustained and trusted customer relationships.”
Smart businesses now place the improvement of the customer experience at the top of their agenda. Reducing costs, increasing profits, advertising, staffing matters and the other priorities that each business faces are all dropping down the list to clear a space for the most important factor; does my customer feel special?
Special enough to come back, special enough to invest more time and money with me, special enough to become a fan and rave about me to others, special enough to lock into a lifetime of loyalty?
Businesses need to understand, far more than ever before, how customers think and behave. The customer focus should permeate ALL levels of the business. Customer service is an attitude not a department.
We know this, we are taught these mantras every day, but are we really offering outstanding customer service? I mean outstanding in the eyes of the customer, not outstanding in your view!
The ICS research shows that many companies are still not thinking this way yet, and therein lies your opportunity to stride ahead and reap the rewards (profits!).
What do you need to do to achieve that magical ten out of ten in customer satisfaction? When was the last time you reviewed your customer service from the customers perspective? Have you made the mistake of settling into last decades golden rule of developing good customer relationships?
Fast-Track Five Steps To Loving Your Customer
1. Identify Who Your Customer Is
Who IS your customer and what do they really want? If you dont know your customer, how are you going to offer them what they really want? Use exit surveys to establish how your customer felt about their experience at that very moment.
2. Involve The Customer
Ask for their views, their feedback, and their ideas. Use feedback tools, hold focus groups, have customer days with free tastings, samplings, services or community based events. At the start of May, Morrisons announced plans to roll back selfservice checkouts in favour of staffed express tills after listening to their customers.
3. Have A Customer Loyalty Programme
I recently changed brands simply based on the fact that my preferred choice didnt have a loyalty programme. Admittedly, once I’d analysed the tangible benefits of the competitors loyalty programme it didn’t equate to a huge saving or bonus, but it’s about how I felt. I feel special, valued and rewarded when there is a loyalty plan. I will, therefore, remain loyal to that one brand.
4. Use Social Media
You might not like it but your customers do, especially the millennials. Highly successful marketing campaigns are now run frequently on social media. Many attractions and small businesses have active social media accounts which they use to publish news, updates, new developments, products or services or offers.
The top channels most big brands are leveraging for customer support are Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and LinkedIn. The younger market is addicted to Instagram, Snapchat and WhatsApp.
5. Be Impressive
Be seen to be an effective leader in your field. Be trustworthy, be high profile, be responsible. Advertise your most loyal supporters, publish a newsletter, hold charitable events. You can’t fake credibility. You have to own it.
If you trawl the web, you find millions of articles on why customer service matters. Until now every business has, periodically, reviewed their customer service to make sure it is good. But in the savvy consumer age we now live, GOOD is no longer enough and GREAT is just passable. If your customer service is to translate to real growth and profit, EXCEPTIONAL should be your goal.