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Navigating the Changing Winds – 6 Master Strategies to Building Customer Loyalty
By Kellie D’Andrea
The winds – “they are a changing my friend”…. The current state of the economy, a new President, failing financial systems, fluctuating prices and high unemployment have caused many of us to pause and evaluate opportunities to reduce expenses and to optimize our performance. As our economy continues to fluctuate, controlling expenses and optimizing service levels from partners and vendors is going to become the focus for all of our customers. We all must be sensitive to these “changing winds” and enhance the experience of our customers each time we interact with them. We must go back to the basics of serving our customers and take the actions that make a difference. The simple actions – a patient ear, a please, a thank you, a quick update on status (even if you don’t’ have update to give – the fact you are reaching out to let them know you are working on their problem goes a long way) and a smile that can be heard over the phone are all simple things that we can do each and every day to stand apart from our competition.
The art of hospitality can be very profitable, but it does take some practice and effort. To succeed, you must be dedicated to customer service first, always demonstrating that you care about their issues. Although customers may not always be right, we all must agree that it is okay for them to be wrong. Treat everyone with concern and compassion. After all, our business is not about us – it’s about the people we service and that single fact is more critical now as we navigate the changing winds… Below are 6 strategies that when applied, will evolve your customer service to the next level – customer loyalty.
Master Strategy # 1: Know your customer
Customers are not a dime a dozen…they come with a variety of different characteristics, desires, needs and expectations. It is important to know everything that you can about your customers to ensure you are offering the most value. From basic information, name, address, title and area of responsibility to wants, needs and pressures and everything in between, it is important to understand your customer to enhance communication, articulate your proposition and to develop the foundation for trust.
Master Strategy # 2: Develop a customer strategy
Companies spend a lot of time and money developing strategic plans for their business, their technology solutions, operational strategies and financial strategies but rarely develop a customer strategy. Developing a good plan to enhance each client’s individual experience will result in uncovering areas for improvement and areas where you excel that may easily translate to another client. By writing a strategy on each client and personalizing that strategy based upon what you know about your customers (Master Strategy #1), you will memorialize a systematic approach and philosophy that will be easily followed by all in your company.
Master Strategy # 3: Deliver on your promise
Customers bought your product or service based upon a promise that you or your company has made. Make sure that you always deliver on your promise and therefore maintaining trustworthiness with your customers. Customers want to purchase from companies and people they trust to deliver the product and/or service they need and with the value they expect. According to the book, Trust Based Selling, Trustworthiness consists of four factors: Credibility, Reliability, Intimacy and Self-Orientation. The combination of these factors used in the right combinations will develop a connection with your customers that will lead to a long time relationship.
Master Strategy # 4: Educate your staff
Educate your front lines with your customer knowledge. The characteristic of your customers, what they are buying, the promises that were made and train your staff on how to not only deliver customer service but how to go over and beyond the basics. They should know how to react in all situations and be empowered to respond to the customers’ requests. They should know it is okay to tell the customer that they don’t know the answers, but will find out and get right back to them. Customer service is a culture and a theme that must permeate your entire organization.
Master Strategy # 5: Over Promise and Over Deliver
Make sure you provide true customer service. In today’s market, service has become a buzzword thrown around by every company, but it is important to understand that customer service is now a baseline expectation and not considered an added value. Customer service is no longer a key differentiator but going over and above the call of duty, well that will set you apart. I recently heard of a story of a retail store owner, selling women’s clothing, overheard customers in her store looking for a place to eat. She not only made a recommendation but picked up the phone and called the local restaurant to make a reservation on behalf of her customer. – She went over and beyond the basics. Here is an great opportunity to over promise and over deliver. Set yourself apart from the competition and be unique. Be creative and personalize your service specific to your individual customer. One size does not fit all in this case and offering personalized customer service will assist you in developing your unique brand.
Master Strategy # 6: Make it easy for your customers to do business with you
Leave all the guess work out and make it easy for your customer to do business with you. Have your staff go through the same process and channels that your customers will so they can experience the same exact experience your customers will have. Make adjustments to your current process if needed and always put on your customer hat and understand how your services are being evaluated through the customer eyes. Is it easy to request your product or service? What if there is a problem? Is it easy to escalate an issue? Is it easy to check on a status? Is there a long wait time? Is there a consistency each time the customer calls? These are all important questions that you must understand in order to make it easy for your customers to do business with you.
By taking the time to apply some or all of these strategies, you will create a culture centered on top notch customer service. By educating your team on expectations and providing them the roadmap to deliver the serviced you expect, will not only make your customers more loyal but will make your business more profitable. Simply stated, happy customers buy more and tell more friends about their experience. Use that as an opportunity to build upon your already stellar brand!
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