Customers: love 'em or lose 'em

2012

It's a universal given that when you shop somewhere you'd like to be treated with respect. Statistics show that after only two negative incidents at any place of business you're likely to shop elsewhere. That's not a lot of wiggle room. Think of it as "two strikes and you're out."

But do you ever wonder how many customers your business may have lost due to customer service blunders? In a survey of more than 2,000 consumers in the U.S and the U.K., nearly half of the respondents said that poor customer service led them to switch to a different service provider in the past year.

Consider the following examples of poor customer service.

Example #1: A restaurant refusing to accept a two-for-one lunch coupon, citing all sorts of extra requirements that were not listed on the coupon.

Example #2: A retail store refusing to give a refund on a cheaply made toy, saying "that's the quality you get for that price."

Example #3: A customer service rep on the telephone saying "I'm sorry, there is no supervisor for you to talk to."

Think about it. How long before you stop patronizing any of these businesses?

Results from another survey, this one polling 1,000 U.S. consumers about shopping experiences in a wide variety of industries, indicate that consumers are sick and tired of receiving poor service.

  • More than 75 percent said they would hang up after waiting on hold for longer than five minutes.
  • More than 80 percent would rather visit the dentist, pay their taxes, or sit in a traffic jam than deal with an unhelpful representative.
  • 75 percent said that they tell friends and family about their negative experiences.
  • 85 percent reported that negative customer service experiences drive them to switch providers.

With statistics like this, it's pretty obvious that anyone having direct contact with customers should be trained on how to bathe their patrons with good service and an attitude of appreciation.

The down economy is all the more reason for going over and above in this arena. In fact, research appearing in the California Management Review indicates that treating customers "adequately" is not enough to keep them anymore. Amazingly, satisfied customers will return to do business with you 28 percent of the time, but delighted customers will return 85 percent of the time. That's HUGE. With those kinds of statistics it only makes sense to provide outstanding customer service!

What follows are five helpful hints that can be adapted by any organization to help improve customer service.

Helpful Hint #1
Whenever possible, learn the names of your customers and use their name when talking with them.

Helpful Hint #2
Be cheerful. If someone is conducting a standard transaction with you, be glad to see them / hear from them and thank them wholeheartedly for bringing you their business.

If someone is bringing you a complaint, act as though it is the most serious grievance and set everything else aside to resolve it as quickly as possible. Be sure to apologize!

Helpful Hint #3
Be prompt in all matters. In today's world, even microwave ovens and 3G smartphones are considered slow. Amazingly, slow service or response is one of the biggest complaints in the customer service realm, and yet it's one of the easiest problems to resolve. Therefore, get on every service opportunity as fast as possible.

Helpful Hint #4
Get specific by asking "how can I help you?" This helps the customer pinpoint his/her need so you know exactly where to focus your service. Remember that your customer may not know exactly what your action should be, but they know what results they want. It's your job to ascertain what results they're looking for and then determine which actions are required of you to create those results.

Helpful Hint #5
Compensate for confusion and mistakes. Restaurants are usually pretty good at this (providing discounts on meals and offering special coupons for future visits), but other businesses can do similar things. For example, if a home improvement store messes up an order on an appliance, they might offer free delivery or free installation of the appliance as a way to say "we're sorry."

Bottom line, the Internet allows consumers to shop and compare more today than at any other time in history. With those extra choices their expectations are higher, and that means outstanding customer satisfaction is an absolute must just to keep them coming back more than 25 percent of the time.

Granted, every company is going to have hiccups in which customers don't get the service they deserve, and yes, that poor service is likely to result in lost business. But the more you emphasize the service part of customer service, the more likely it is that your customers will hang around.

In today's economy, that can make the all the difference.

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About The Author

Dan Bobinski
Dan Bobinski

Dan Bobinski is a training specialist, author, and an accomplished keynote speaker. He's been providing management and leadership training to Fortune 500 companies as well as smaller, regional concerns for more than 20 years.