Profitability and sustainability for most businesses depend upon customer loyalty. Repeat transactions from customers is what every business aims for. The first or the first few transactions may not cover the initial customer acquisition cost for a lot of businesses. You may have heard about the concept of measuring customer life time value (LTV). There are several strategies and tactics businesses use to lure customers into repeat and more frequent transactions. Loyalty programs, repeat purchase discounts, premium membership plans are a few of these strategies. Delivering a great customer service is one of these and is a zero cost strategy.
Why delivering great customer service is a zero cost strategy?
It certainly does not cost you extra bucks to be courteous, transparent and responsive to your customers. Good behavior has no cost but delivers exponential returns on your zero investment.
All other customer retention tactics will cost you. You would need to plan and get a budget approved from the management. Extra discounts, membership plans, offers and gift certificates cost you. They are tangible and customers always end up expecting more each time.
Delivering a personalized experience and great customer service makes customers your brand champions. They come back for more as well as promote your brand to family and friends.
How can you deliver a great customer service?
The first thing you need to ensure is consistency across all customer touch points. One bad experience will ruin all the good work the rest of the team may have done. Your sales rep, the front desk executive, the CEO, the delivery boy, the technician and the bot responding to chats on your website. Everyone needs to deliver a consistent pleasant experience.
There are numerous virtual and offline training programs for delivering a great customer service. I would recommend every employee including the top management to attend one or two of such workshops, read articles and case studies. I will list down a few very basic but quite often taken for granted tactics.
Focus on delivering a personalized experience
This appeals to every human. As humans, we crave recognition. A personalized dining, shopping or lodging experience address this emotional need. Imagine being recognized by all the staff members at your neighborhood coffee shop each time you walk in with a friend. A pleasant smile and greeting suddenly lifts your spirits.
There is a lot of scope and easy ways to deliver such an experience for your customers. What you do, sell or deliver does not matter. Yours could be a fast food restaurant, an ecommerce website, a luxury car dealership or an engineering corporation. Map all the customer touchpoints and ask your team – How can we deliver a WOW experience at every touch point? 9 out of 10 approved ideas would require no extra cost.
Admit when things go wrong
Quite often the frontline executives keep trying to cover up. They just delay the inevitable. If repairing the damaged fiber cable is going to take 8 hours, don’t keep repeating that the internet would be back up within a short while. Own up the mistake, offer an honest apology for inconvenience, try to fix it as best as you could and ensure you update the customers. (For information on dealing with bad press that could potentially result when things go wrong, read Not All Press is Good Press: How to Protect Your Brand When You Receive Bad Publicity from Customers by Brand Building for Small Business.)
Yes, do ensure that things don’t go wrong too often. No level of great customer service will help if breakdowns and missed deadlines become the standard.
Capture the Voice of Customer
Listen to what customers have to say about your products and service. Good or bad. Listen to them. Ask for suggestions, reviews and feedback. You could send them surveys or speak to them one by one or in groups. Monitor what customers post about your brand on social media and online forums. Here is a post I recently published on how to monitor voice of customer without surveys.
Monitoring without action is a waste of time and resources. Analyze what customers say and want. Let them know you value their opinion and what actions have been planned.
Raise the bar of excellent customer service
This is again a human need and behavior. We always want more. A product feature or benefit that may create a wow experience today gradually becomes a must have feature. If you stop providing the feature or experience once customers get used to it, it would lead to dissatisfaction.
Keep monitoring and observing customer reactions to your customer service strategies. Always step up when it is time to.
Example: The Airlines Story
Domestic airlines in India used to serve tamarind candies to flyers at the end of the journey. Inexpensive candies. They did not cost much. However flyers loved the taste. Especially the kids. Try asking a team of airline executives during a brainstorming exercise for ideas to wow flyers. Inexpensive candies may not be a likely suggestion. However the impact was great. I personally recall waiting for the steward to come with a box full of candies.
Initially it was a wow experience. It was a pleasant and unexpected experience. It remained so for the first few flights. Gradually I started looking forward to the free inexpensive candies. Soon came the time when the candies became an expectation. A must have. It thus was a cause of customer dissatisfaction when the airlines stop serving free candies as a cost cutting measure.
This is true for every little extra feature, service or experience. Raise the bar before customers start treating them as a must have.
These are simple and easy to implement tactics. A great customer service is indeed a zero cost strategy with amazing results.
Please share your ideas and suggestions in the comments. Thank you for visiting the Business Management Blog.