Customers are the lifeblood of your company. Without them, you are out of business! Why, then, do so many wireless carriers and other telecommunication firms fail to promote customer loyalty?
Do you have a strategy and budget for customer retention? What steps are you taking to improve the experience your customers have when they interact with your staff?
Customer loyalty is influenced as much by your customers’ emotions as it is by your products, services, processes and prices. The interactions your customers have with your staff influence their buying decisions. Customer loyalty has a lot to do with how they are treated. It’s not just about what they are sold.
It’s critical that every type of interaction with your company is a positive experience. Interactions occur in a variety of channels: phone, face-to-face contact, e-mail, the Web, fax and printed materials (billings, flyers, etc.).
Here are a few suggestions that will let your customers know you care, that you appreciate their business and that you want them to continue to do business with you.
Welcome Customer Complaints
Teach your staff to view a complaint as an opportunity for improvement. One of the greatest challenges companies face is to look at a product, service or situation through the eyes of their customers. Customers often fail to complain when they have a problem because they feel it won’t do any good. After all, no one will do anything anyway, right?
That’s even more reason to make sure your staff is empowered and trained to handle
customer complaints on the spot. Do they know the Eight Magic Words to Diffuse an Emotional Customer? These simple words will help your staff create an immediate solution while validating the customer’s concerns, needs and emotions.
“What can we do to make this right?”
Try these eight words for the next 30 days: When you have an upset customer, ask them, “What can we do to make this right?” Listen to what your customer has to say. Their response may solve the problem quickly and inexpensively. There are certain situations where this approach would not be appropriate, the most obvious being when talking with a delinquent customer.
Educate Your Customers
Are your customers knowledgeable about the products and services you offer?
It’s important to clearly communicate the benefit and value of your products and services. It’s best to be simple and straightforward. For example: “The major benefit is blah (not blah, blah, blah).” Keep it simple!
Position your means of interaction; don’t forget all of the different channels, so that they are easy to use and customer friendly. Make these interactions positive.
- Web site – It should be easy to use; competitors are a click away!
- Message on hold – Market your products/services while customers are on hold.
- Special of the month – Choose a different product/service to promote every month. Offer a discount. Educate your staff on that product/service so they can effectively communicate with your customers.
- Newsletter – A monthly newsletter enclosed with billings is an awesome way to educate customers about products/services, your company, your employees and your community.
- Incoming calls – It shouldn’t take two minutes to get to the right person or department.
Involve Your Customers
Do you have systems in place to follow up with a customer shortly after they purchase a product or service? This could be done via e-mail, snail mail, your Web site or telephone. Make sure customers know how to use the product or service and that it’s functioning properly. Ask if they have any questions, concerns or suggestions.
Customer feedback is not a one-time event. Create a systematic process to elicit feedback from your customers:
- What do they like/not like about your products/services?
- What do they like/not like about doing business with you?
- What other products/services do they want you to offer?
- How else can you satisfy their needs?
Empower Your Staff
All of the above will be maximized if your staff has the proper skills and knowledge. If you’re serious about improving customer satisfaction and loyalty, skill development must be an ongoing commitment.
Does your staff have the skills to:
- Develop rapport quickly with customers.
- Proactively resolve customer conflict with the first phone call.
- Suggestively sell your products/services.
- Identify statements or comments made by your customers that are indications of customer need or a buying signal.
- Position your products/services to clearly define the value and benefit for your customers while meeting their needs.
- Understand how your products/services are better than the competition.
- Create a follow-up system that ensures commitments are upheld.
Keep your customers engaged with your company. Customers are human beings. They want to know that you listen to them, that you will treat them with respect and that you value them and their business. Most times, it’s the little things a business does that tell the customer they are valued.
Remember – customer loyalty has a lot to do with how they are treated, not about what they are sold.
David Saxby is president of Measure-X, a Phoenix, Ariz.-based measurement, training and recognition company that specializes in customer service and sales skill training for utility companies.