By David Saxby
What does your company do that separates you from the competition? If we asked your managers and your front line employees what makes your company different and better what would their opinion be? In this turbulent business market, where there are fewer customers spending less money, every person in your company should know and provide those unique skills or benefits to your clients. It’s the small things that a company does to make their clients feel special that separates them from the competition.
Most businesses say that it is customer service which sets them apart. How many times in the last thirty days have you seen or heard a company claim they provide excellent customer service?
Ironically, most of us don’t even believe them! Why? Because our daily experience tells us differently! Most companies that we purchase from don’t “walk their talk.” When we find a company which creates that extraordinary customer experience, we are usually surprised and tend to tell everyone we know.
To begin improving your business, look for things that stand out in your organization. Identify the areas that you can say “we are better because …” In the book “Up Against The Wal-Marts,” Don Taylor and Jeanne Archer chronicle the stories of businesses across the country that have survived and prospered while being right next door to Wal-Mart. They describe what these companies did to position their business when they couldn’t compete on price.
If you surveyed every client, new and old alike, what would they say about your business and the service you provide? Would everyone say that you give incredibly friendly service, that your staff is knowledgeable, and that your employees make suggestions on the best services to fit their needs? If you don’t like the responses you hear, there are three general areas you can focus upon to improve your organization’s standing.
Consistency: Does every client experience a consistent level of extraordinary customer contact? Consistency is one of the keys to great service. Is each and every contact at that same high level of customer contact and service? If a business creates a high quality experience one time because one of your employees understands customer service, but the next time a different employee doesn’t have that same enthusiasm, client’s might consider spending their money somewhere else. The businesses which consistently deliver the same high level of friendliness and service to their clients are the ones who set the standard for customer service for every other company in their industry
Empathy: How many times have you walked into a store to purchase a product or service only to find no empathy or interest from the person supposedly “helping” you? What about your business? Are your employees treating every client and caller with the kindness and respect they deserve? Are your employees asking questions to determine your client’s needs? Are they really listening so that they can understand what is important to the client? Are they taking the time to explain why a particular service is the right solution for the client? Does that employee take the five seconds to say thank you to the client for doing business with your company?
Employee Development: In the current business climate, training is one of the first items that gets cut from many company budgets. How can you expect to retain your clients if your staff lacks the proper skills? Without the right training and expertise, your employees lack the confidence to really help your client’s and their callers. To correct this, invest the money and time to provide your employees the skills necessary to communicate, listen, and sell the value of the services you offer. Clients come to you for solutions – they want someone to help them make the decision which will benefit them.
Richard Roth, managing director of Hackett Benchmarking and Research, says that companies which spend more than average on training have a higher placement rate of internal hires, which reduces recruiting costs. “The other thing we’re able to show,” states Roth, “is that companies that spend more on training have lower annual turnover.” Companies which spend $218 per employee in training and development have more than 16 percent annual voluntary turnover, Roth indicates. Companies that spend $273 per employee have less than 7 percent annual voluntary turnover.
If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. If you sent out a survey with ten questions related to customer service at your company, how would they rate you? Would each one of your clients give you an excellent rating? What suggestions would they have for improving the level of service you offer? What additional services are they looking to buy that you could be selling them?
Companies are afraid to ask their customers the tough questions. Why? Because they’re afraid of the answers. Make an effort to ask your clients what they think about your service and your employees. Ask for suggestions. Customers can provide you with insights on ways to improve. This investment will reap huge rewards. As the level of customer satisfaction increases, so does the level of sales.
With increased competition and greater choices available to the client, the strategies you use to retain your existing clients and to attract new ones are crucial to continued growth and ongoing success.
David Saxby is President of Measure-X, a training firm specializing in providing training on customer service skills and employee retention. He can be reached at 888-644-5499 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out their website at measure-x.com.
[From Connection Magazine – Jan/Feb 2002]