Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Keep Your Customers and Clients Coming Back

While researching his book, The Customer Driven Company, Richard Whitely surveyed fourteen corporations and found that 70% of the identifiable reasons customers stopped doing business with a company had to do with service lapses such as a lack of personal attention or unhelpful employees.

Another survey revealed that the average American business loses 15% of its customer base each year: 68% of these customer leave because of an attitude of indifference from a company employee. That is, the customer's perception of the employee's attitude.

Training needs to focus on helping customer-contact employees develop an awareness of how others might perceive them. Simply becoming aware of the impression we make on others can be the motivation to change. Here are seven steps you can take to lead customer-contact employees toward a service image that places satisfied customers at its heart.

1) Start by asking, "How do you want customers to perceive the people who work in our company?" In his book, Silent Messages, Albert Mehrabian cited results of his experiments: "…people's implicit behavior has more bearing than their words on communicating feelings or attitudes to others."

2) Communicate specific expectations of behavior to employees. There's no such thing as common sense!

3) Take time at staff meetings to role-play how to deal with customers on the phone. People need, in the words of Robert Waterman, "directed autonomy." They need both specific direction and the freedom to make choices that help accomplish the goal.

4) It's essential that employees be able to recognize benefits to themselves,for everyone is tuned to that radio station—WII-fm. What's in it for me?

5) Rather than saving praise and suggestions for that dreaded performance review, offer them freely and frequently. Compliment employees on their everyday achievements. Come up with ways to acknowledge them: send a thank you note or bestow a fun award at a staff meeting.

6) As employers and managers, we can serve as models of the behavior we would like to see from our employees. It's important to realize that we can't change other people, we can only change ourselves. But, by altering our actions and reactions, we can influence the response we get. By altering their actions and reactions, employees can influence the responses they get from their customers.

7) Remember to acknowledge employees' strengths. Celebrate what you already do right and then take a look at those things you can do to better manage the impression your company projects.

You can create a service image that draws customers and keeps them coming back. For, customer satisfaction is about feelings. In the words of Karl Albrecht, co-author of Service America, "However your employees feel is how your customers are going to feel, sooner or later." A satisfied customer is a loyal customer and in a service business, that's the bottom line.

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