Businesses can’t afford to underestimate the influence customer service has on their bottom line. One nearly certain way to lose customers is to make them wait too long.
| One survey by Maritz Research asked how long individuals thought was an acceptable wait time at specific types of organizations. Respondents gave the following average times:
The following percentages of customers left specific businesses after what they considered an unacceptably long wait:
Customers indicated there are some simple ways to keep them relatively happy while waiting, such as:
Polls have shown that more than 80 per cent of customers have left a business because of long waits. The amount of time a customer has to wait is a primary driver of customer satisfaction and should be at the top of your business’s list when it assesses how it can better serve consumers.
One survey also showed that bad customer experiences tend to have a ripple effect where customers who perceive negative service are not only less likely to spend money at that business again, but they are also more likely to tell others about their experience.
In a time where shopping research takes place online and people are engaged in social networks to share and collect ideas, businesses risk losing potential customers before they ever set foot in a store or office.
Knowing that customer service is one of the best routes to a healthy bottom line, here is a management checklist that will help improve your enterprise’s customer-satisfaction ratings:
1. Require executives to personally and regularly serve customers.
By dealing with the public, executives cement relationships with customers or clients and let employees know that service is honorable and rewarding as well as the focus of corporate energy.
2. Survey customers and give immediate feedback.
A customer satisfaction survey can establish performance benchmarks, build relationships, identify customers your business risks losing and can be a catalyst for enhancing overall satisfaction. Surveys should be short, taking no longer than 10 minutes to complete. Ask concise rather than open ended questions and mix topics to force continual thinking about different subjects.
When you get enough results and spot trends, let your employees know. Moreover, be sure staff quickly hear comments about problems or positive results. This lets them make the connection between their behaviour and customer attitudes toward the company. A quick response to customers shows them that your organization cares and rewards them for taking the time to speak up.
3. Hire people who have a service attitude.
Some people simply enjoy serving others and that urge dominates their personalities. These individuals make the best salespeople, present a good image for your business and help your enterprise grow.
4. Cultivate service heroes.
Your company’s staff and management meetings should regularly feature examples of outstanding customer service. Public praise creates heroes and encourages excellence. Give employees the power to do whatever has to be done to make a customer’s experience pleasant. There will be occasional failures but those are opportunities to find new strategies. When employees deliver the goods, reward them. One way is to link compensation to employee contributions. Companies that do not reward innovation are not likely to be encouraging outstanding service.
5. Devote as much time to service training as you do to technical and procedural training.
Getting it right technically doesn’t count if the customers feel they haven’t received a commitment to a continued relationship. If customers feel they received poor service then they did receive poor service. Your employees represent you, your company, and your brand. Working with customers is the most important thing they will do. Give them the tools by giving them sufficient training. Never let an untrained employee have customer contact.
6. Make customers your only concern.
Let them think you have all the time in the world — even when you don’t. A relaxed tone of voice and patience go a long way toward keeping them happy, even when they don’t get what they want. Take their complaints seriously — they don’t care if you’ve heard the problem before, they want your complete attention. Studies have shown that as many as 90 per cent of customers whose complaints are resolved will purchase again.
7. Keep raising the bar.
Successful organizations continually raise the bar. If your entire enterprise isn’t pushing to do better today you risk being left behind. Create an atmosphere of excellence at your enterprise by spreading the word that everything your company and its employees do must be the best and that you won’t accept less.
8. Comparison shop.
Visit the competition, see what they are doing and then do it better or differently. Customers have more than one choice, so stay ahead of the curve by asking how you can add value to their experience. When you are a customer, get involved with clerks and service attendants.
9. Keep employees up to date.
Let staff know what new products have been ordered, when they will arrive, what kind of advertising promotions you plan and what business changes you may be planning. The more your employees know, the better then can serve the customers or clients.
10. Stay positive.
When a problem or question arises with a customer, say you will try to resolve it rather than that you can’t do anything about it. If a customer demands something that is against company policy, explain the situation but then offer to help come up with an alternative solution.
Final Thought: Always say thank you. A good rule of thumb is to end every interaction with a word or two showing appreciation. Even when customers complain, you can thank them for bringing the problem to your attention.