Ask any business owner if he/she provides excellent customer service and they will undoubtedly answer in the affirmative. Are your customers satisfied?
Again a business owner will answer yes. But the follow-up question often challenges those very same business owners: How do you know? There may be the occasional Customer Satisfaction Survey that indicates “satisfied” or “very satisfied”, but other than that, owners typically do not truly know whether or not they have established customer loyalty.
Let’s begin with some honest numbers. According to Bain & Company research, 80% of customers who leave you for your competition, told you they were “satisfied” or “very satisfied.” In that same study, out of 362 companies, 80% of companies claimed to be giving “excellent” customer service, but according to the customers, only 8% of those companies actually did. According to research by Maritz, 43% of customers who leave, do so because of poor service. To make matters worse, 73% of customers left because of employee/worker attitudes and 83% of customers told someone else about their negative experience.
This research tells us that customer evaluation tools are ineffective, at least in the traditional and typical way that they are used to collect information about customers, and their satisfaction. If these methods do not provide accurate data on the satisfaction of our customers, then how can one be sure he is delivering the highest quality of customer service? Again, I ask the question, “How do you know?”
Businesses succeed and fail on their ability to deliver consistent, high quality customer service. The quality and ability to deliver great customer service cannot be defined or determined by the business owner or the management, as research tells us there is an inability to objectively assess one’s own quality of service and customer satisfaction. When research methods indicate a “job well done” or a majority of satisfied customers, 80% will accept the results and pat themselves on the back. However, the savvy business owner, the one truly dedicated to keeping his customers, beating the competition down, and delivering the highest quality of customer service in his/her market, will refuse to accept any accolades and will continue digging for more information, and pushing to provide better service.
As a business owner one needs to obtain objective information regarding the delivery of customer service by the management team, front-line staff, and as the owner. Investing time and money into gaining objective information, is money well spent, especially considering the current cost of reaching out to and developing new customers. The goal of great customer service is not simply to have customers leave your business “satisfied.” Instead the benchmark should be one of creating “fans” who are will go out and rave about your business.
We all have those businesses we are fans of. I am a huge fan of Hogg’s Gourmet Grill in Moreno Valley. The service is unparalleled, the food is fantastic, and the owners are dedicated to each customer walking out of their business a fan. I have recommended Hogg’s in countless conversations, and have even found myself not simply asking friends if they have been there, but following up with them to make sure they have actually gone. I am not just a customer of Hogg’s, I am a fan. I am personally invested in the success of this restaurant. This is the difference between a satisfied customer, and a fan.
There are four essentials to building your business’ fan base. First, get an objective evaluation of your customer service. Second, develop a plan to build your fan base using the information you gathered. Third, retrain your managers and front-line staff members. Share with them the vision of building a fan base and how it is vital to the long-term success of your business. Finally, objectively evaluate your progress and retool as needed.
According to a 2006 University of Iowa study on customer service trends, those businesses and business owners that invest in providing a superior level of customer service are rewarded through “…superior shareholder value, higher profit margins and more stable cash flow and are better positioned to weather bad times.”