One of the biggest challenges that any type of business faces is to know with confidence that they are viewed by their customers for being as wonderful, caring, responsive and concerned as they believe themselves to be. It is somewhat surprising to me that when the question is asked of those involved in any type of business, the answers are based on what they think and why they think it. Yet the question that doesn’t bring a definitive answer is … How do you KNOW that you, in fact, deliver GREAT customer service?
Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart, put forth a meaning quote:
“There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everyone in the company from the chairman on down simply by spending his money elsewhere.”
To the extent you can subscribe to his statement, you come to realize that having a truly satisfied and happy customer actually overrides the product or service you might provide in terms of critical importance. And if you agree, the next question becomes how can you actually know that what you envision as providing in this regard is being perceived and received in the same way by those on whom you depend to keep your organization in business?
I’m confident that we have all had experiences at both ends of the customer service spectrum. When it’s outstanding we tend to sing the praises of the organization, the product or service and continue to happily return time and time again. On the other hand, when our experience falls short of what we want or need, we return as a customer only when we feel we must or even more likely, we look for another avenue to get a similar product/service.
Personally, I believe that those organizations who take the time to determine just how their customers do the customer service they provide are those that stand the very real chance of increasing the overall success they experience. Here are some steps that one might consider that will enable you to 1) know what your customers think and 2) inform you as to any changes you will want to make to improve how you are valued by your customer.
- Clearly Identify Your Customer
This sounds perhaps obvious and even a bit silly, however when we ask several people in our organizations to identify our primary customer the answers (plural) will be a surprise. Just the lack of a single, common answer is an indication of the lack of clarity and with that, how can we expect all of our customers to be treated in the same way regardless of the individual or department providing what we do?
- Find Out What Your Customer Wants and Needs
Of course they came to you because they think they want what you can provide. However, by taking a small amount of time to ask your customers what it is they are truly looking for from us it allows the organization to make tweaks to their customer service that will hit the mark of the very people who we depend on to keep us in business and successful.
- Knowing What I Want and Need … Can Your Organization Truly Meet My Expectations?
One place that organizations get into trouble with customers is when they are so intent on saying ‘yes’ to any piece of business that they commit to providing it when, in fact, they don’t have the knowledge, experience, skill or bandwidth to do so. Thus, saying ‘yes’ is one sure way of disappointing the very people on whom your ultimate success depends.
- Use The Best Source Of Customer Satisfaction … Your Team Working With Your Customer!
Too often it is a group sitting in the ivory tower of an organization that ponders and determines how great customer service is defined resulting in what is to be provided by all involved. And yet, residing in that same organization are those who have the ongoing interface with your customers and thus, the best ones to convey to those in the ‘tower’ what must be provided in order to create raving fans that all seek to have. Use them and truly use their input to define the customer service that all will provide.
If, in reading to this point, you come to question or realize that you don’t have company-wide or departmental definitive answer as to how your customers really perceive the service you provide in the course of doing business, hopefully you’re curious and determined to find out. There are avenues you can take to do so and I’m confident that the result will be anything but wasted time. In fact you may find yourself exactly where you strive to be. Consider these steps:
- Survey Your Customers
Put together small groups or individual customer inquiries during which you and other representatives of your company become master listeners asking questions like …
- What are the things you expect of our product or service?
- What should we be doing to earn your praise as providing the best customer service you have experienced … anywhere?
- What about your experience, if anything, has left you feeling undervalued and unimportant?
- What are the things you experience now that reinforce the importance you are to the company?
- Train ALL members of the organization on the ‘new’ program
Once you have determined what you are going to do that will meet your customer’s expectations of customer service convey and train every single person within the organization as to what they are all expected to provide and how they are to do it. Anything less will represent wasted time and effort unless there is the initial commitment from within to listen and implement based on the findings. Without the intent and goal to implement based on the findings the risk is serious loss of those same customers.
- Create a system of ongoing inquiry to insure ongoing success
Implement a systematic method of continual evaluation with every customer at every instance. Is it a 1 minute telephone survey following the call or is it an emailed questionnaire that will provide instant feedback that allows you to know the extent to which you were successful in the eyes of each customer? Regardless of the method, your customer will continue to be impressed with how much you continue to care and the consistency it represents.
Of course, whatever our product or service, this is the business we see as what we do. And yet there is little argument with the fact that without maximizing our customer satisfaction we are leaving opportunity and some degree of success on our table. Bill Gates once said “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.”. Perhaps it’s really time that we take that refresher course?