Business

Is your Customer Service helping or hurting you?

Is your Customer Service helping or hurting you?By: Keith Gooden

ORLANDO – This is my first time putting down on paper some of the many experiences that I have had working with some of the top U.S. fortune 500 companies.

I hope that through these articles I will be able to shed some light on some of the many issues facing businesses today.

I also hope that these articles will inspire many of you to take a serious look at how you are presently doing business and to make some positive changes for the future.

As the business environment becomes more global and more and more companies search for new markets to expand their businesses, competition has increased and the fight to retain customers is even more intense.

This increase in competition is forcing businesses to pay much more attention to not just satisfying their customers, but surpassing their expectation.

In general, when a customer has a problem with something or someone at a store or business, they usually tell someone else about it. In fact, this action is compounded by the fact that this person will tell three to four other persons and they in turn will tell someone else, who then tell someone else. They usually don’t tell you exactly what is wrong, whether it is your price is too high, you sold them an outdated product, or one of your employees was rude to them. Research has shown that people who have a problem are likely to tell eight to ten people about it and less than five percent will lodge a complaint to the company.

Do you take proactive steps in addressing complaints or feedback from your customers? Do you incorporate the information you receive into you business strategy to improve your bottom line? Is your customer service helping you or hurting you? Do you make it easy for customers to complain, or even encourage complaints, so that you can set things straight or make changes so that new customers will not experience the same problems? If you really care about retaining your customers and keeping cost down, you will welcome these kinds of feedback.

Customer relations management (CRM) is now one of the most important elements of any strategic business plan. Based on a report spurred on by then Vice President Gore’s National Performance Review and its September 1993 report, From Red Tape to Results: Creating a Government That Works Better and Costs Less, many government agencies have conducted focus groups and surveys and set customer service standards to respond to customers’ needs.

These government agencies are starting to eliminate unnecessary regulations, cut red tape and address root causes of citizen complaints. Certainly, if the public sector have seen the need to address this important business element, then it is equally important that private sector take a more proactive and serious step in making this area a priority.

Here are a few things that you can implement to improve your customer service satisfaction level:

1. Make customer satisfaction your number one priority

Real customer service starts with the business owner. The owner sets the tone as to what employees will or will not do regarding maintaining the highest level of customer service. The philosophy of “the customer is always right” should be engrained in everyone’s mind. From the moment a new hire is oriented into your company, he/she should know that they will be evaluated on how well they interact with the customers and how they maintain a high level of customer service.

2. Have a strategy to deal with customer complaints

If you have not conceptualized or even verbalize a strategy for dealing with customer complaints, you should. Because of the fact that it will cost you much more to gain new customers, compared to retaining the ones you already have, you will need to think seriously about what strategy to implement. Consider setting up a complaint box in and around high traffic areas in your business to capture complaints. Know before hand who will be handling these customers complaints and make sure it is someone who has the skills to do so.

3. Use the customer complaints as a way to improve your business

As I mentioned earlier, it is less costly to retain customers compared to seeking new ones. If everyone in your organization have a customer satisfaction mindset, then dealing with complaints will be much easier. Make sure that you have regular meetings to discuss these complaints and ask your employees how they can improve in the different areas. Implement the action steps into your business plan and work to monitor and evaluate how you are doing versus the standards you have set.

4. Make it a habit to reach out to your customers

If you own a small mom & pop store, or even a restaurant do you know most of the customers who stop in your store? Do you take the time to meet and greet some of them? Do you call them by their names? I know doing these things may seem tiresome, but if you put the effort in this area of your business, you will see that you will be spending less on gaining new customers, because the ones you have are actually promoting your business for you.

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5. Take each complaint serious

If you truly want to improve customer satisfaction and save on your bottom line, you should take each complaint serious. Granted, there will be some complaints that you cannot address based on the cost versus the benefit to be had and you will have to bite the “proverbial” bullet, so to speak. But in general, you should let each complainant know that their complaint will be looked into and someone will be getting back to them.

Customer satisfaction should be incorporated into your business plan. Time, effort and money should also be spent on improving the level of customer satisfaction. So, make it a point to find ways to make it easy for your customers to file a complaint and make it even easier for you and your employees to address and fix it.

Keith Gooden is a business consultant, who works with small to medium size businesses and focuses in the areas of sales, marketing, strategic planning, customer service, personnel management and business operations. He can be reached at (407)446-2419 or keithgooden8@aol.com

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