Transforming the Customer Experience

Category : customer retention

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Customer Satisfaction – She absolutely Will!!

This is a follow up to my last post which detailed my under-whelming experience in one branch of a large retail chain supermarket.

I went to the location at which I usually do my shopping.  After getting my non-perishables, I headed to the deli for, yes, more sandwich meat and a roasted chicken.  I walked up to the case where the chicken is kept.  While selecting my chicken, one of the staff came around the case to put in a few more.  She looked up at me and with a big smile said “Hi there! How are you today? Are you finding everything you need?”  I told her I was great.  I also told her how much I liked it that this location had the fastest selling deli meat presliced and ready to go so people didn’t have to wait in line.  I told her that I noticed the other store didn’t have that, but worse yet, the staff there was not nearly as hospitable or helpful as she was.  She said that she was sorry that I had encountered that situation.  She said that she had been in the break room at this location a while ago and really looked at a poster on the wall that had been there for quite some time.  She said that it is a picture with the caption – “Customer Service is Not Just a Job, It’s an Attitude.”  That seemed to make an impression on her.  She said that she felt it was so true that “because without the customers that buy from us everyday, none of us would have jobs.  I just try to make the customers smile and enjoy it here enough that they want to come back to us.”

Wow!  This is exactly the type of attitude that we all want to have within each member of our team within our companies and organizations.  She really understands the trickle down effect of the fact that when the customers are given good customer service, then they are satisfied customers.  With high customer satisfaction, the customer loyalty and retention increases.  Any time that customer retention increases, the impact is positive on the bottom line reflecting increased profits.

Again, this large chain supermarket does many things well.  They offer great prices, have nice stores that are well laid out, and clearly have some excellent customer service oriented staff.  If the service and amenities were consistent across all stores, it would enable the customers to have more flexibility.  They would know that know matter which location they were in, they would receive the expected high level of service and amenities each and every time.

Be Your Customer – Try Your Products and Services and Increase Service and Satisfaction

I was having lunch today at the Louis Betton Steakhouse in Grand Rapids, MI.  I asked the server about a particular dish and she went into a detailed description of it, and then told me that it tasted delicious.  I then asked about a different dish described as “Greek”, received another detailed description, completed with – “tastes as if it were truly made in Greece.”

My curiosity was piqued.  I asked the server if she had tried every dish on the menu.  She replied that all servers must taste each dish in order to accurately tell their customers how it tastes.  I told her her how impressed I was with that.  She asked me a blatantly honest question in all seriousness – “If I didn’t taste it, how would I accurately be able to describe it to you, much less sell it?”

This is a concept that seems to be pushed to the side in most companies.  While this example is in a restaurant setting, it still holds true in all fields.  Everyone in your company should test and use your products and services yourself in order to share their true experiences with it.  Customers will appreciate the honesty and candor.  The customer will decide ultimately for themselves, but when given a subjective opinion by someone who has actually used it, it creates more credibility in the customer’s eyes. By testing your products, you are increasing the level of customer service that your staff will deliver.  They will feel more confident in their interactions and go further to help the customer in their decision making process.

Customer satisfaction will increase when you have well informed sales people and staff.  Everyone in your company is in sales, no matter what their title, and should truly be familiar with your products and services.  By having firsthand knowledge, they will not only be helpful, but educational and perceived by your customers as a resource.  When you become that resource for your customers, loyalty and customer retention also increase.

Remember, your customer’s foremost need is certainty.  If you have not actually experienced what you are selling, you really have no actual knowledge on how it will perform.  Once you do, you are then an “expert.”

Your customers will thank you for it.

Customer Feedback – Are you listening?

The profitable companies are those that are truly listening to their customers.  Customers will tell you exactly what they like and don’t like about your company and products.  Many companies tailor their products and services around the feedback that their customers have given.

Many clients ask me how to get the feedback.  The answer is quite simple – ASK THEM.  Consumers appreciate the feeling of being valued and asked for their opinion.  When you ask the right questions the right way, the feedback that you receive will be your most valuable market research.  When properly applied, the benefits will not only be increased customer satisfaction, but customer retention, customer loyalty, and increased purchases.

Your bottom line greatly depends on the proper application of customer feedback.  If feedback is asked for, be certain to use it appropriately.  The huge gains in the customer perception cannot be recovered once the customer feels that they were asked, but the feedback not considered.  It is impossible to apply the feedback of your entire customer base.  But when feedback is received, acknowledge it and let the customers know how it was used.  If appropriate, it is even possible to inform them as to why certain suggestions were not taken and why and still retain their business.  Again, this will demonstrate the feedback was appreciated and considered.

“By understanding the customer’s wants and needs, businesses better understand what to offer, therefore creating client satisfaction, brand recognition and customer loyalty. Through research and surveys, customers voice their opinions and give feedback. Profitable growth occurs when our clients target customer retention with the same vigor as new sales, and take action on this feedback by improving their product, service or operations,” said Bobra Bush of Telcare Corporation.(Press Release 24/7)

Whether you use comment cards, focus groups, or surveys, be sure to invite and ask for feedback from your customers.  When the give it, truly consider it and apply when appropriate.

Your customers will thank you for it.

Give Customers What They Ask For and Increase Your Service

Some businesses are wondering what they can do to increase their profits and increase their customer satisfaction levels.   K&M Foods smartly acted on requests that were coming in from customers.  An article in The News Dispatch based in Michigan City, Indiana describes how one business is listening to what the customer wants and literally delivering it to them.

Ali Ibrahim, the owner of K&M Foods and Al Tokoly, general manager, got a call from a customer inquiring about home delivery of groceries.  Soon, more and more customers began calling asking to have their groceries delivered.   So, the store began doing exactly what the customers asked them to do – they started a service for home delivered groceries.  This service helps out customers with varying needs – from those with medical conditions that are unable to shop for themselves, to those who simply don’t have the time and are willing to pay for it.

Tokoly said the service has helped the store develop a continuously loyal customer base.  The feedback is telling them they are providing a much sought after service.

“We know people by their first name,” he said. “If you treat customers the way you’d like to be treated, they’ll keep the doors swinging.”

Lesson to be learned – listen to what your customers are asking and telling you.  They will tell you what they want from you.  If you deliver it, you will build a loyal customer base and increase your customer service and satisfaction levels.  In the end, both your bottom line and your customers will thank you for it.

Help Your Customers – Increase Their Loyalty and Customer Satisfation

Overflowing basketPlease tell me that you’ve done what I did yesterday….  I went in to the supermarket to just pick up a gallon of milk, some eggs, and a loaf of bread.  But, when I passed the chips ailse, I picked up some that were on sale, a bag of apples, three cartons of yogurt, and a block of cheese.  Notice that no where in here have I mentioned that I actually got a cart.  My basket was already overflowing as I went down the frozen food ailse to get some frozen vegetables.  I do this quite frequently, intending to get only a few things, but then stop for impulse purchases or remember something esle we need at home.

Thankfully, I happened to shop at D&W yesterday and thier slogan is “D&W- A Nicer Place to Be”  Well, yesterday it really was a “Nicer Place to Be” because as I was headed down the freezer ailse, one of their associates saw me starting to struggle with my already too full basket.  He immediately came up to me and said “You look like you bit off a bit more than you intended.  Please let me get you a shopping cart to make this easier for you.”  He then took my basket out of my hands, asked me to wait a moment, and then came back with all of my groceries now placed in a cart wheeling toward me.  He then asked me if there was anything else that I needed.  I asked where the artichoke hearts were.  Instead of just gestering me in a general direction, or telling me which ailse they were on, he walked me over three ailses and helped me find them.

This was a welcome example of excellent customer service. Just by taking a literal burden off of my hands and literally providing me with a better solution without having to ask for it, this gentleman earned my customer loyalty.  The prices at this particular supermarket do tend to run a little bit higher than the mega store in town, but when I have customer service like this, I can certainly justify spending a bit more because the service sells itself.

He practiced perfect customer service.  He identified a situation that could use some help, he approached me in a friendly and non-condescending way, took my basket and made the trip to the cart station himself, and walked me to where my next purchase was located.  The best part, he figured all of this out on his own and I did not have to ask for any help at all.

By simply using these customer service techniques, this store has very high levels of customer satisfaction, customer loyalty, and retention.  Thier cultural mindset is certainly one that is customer centric and providing service excellence.

Increase Customer Satisfaction and Give Them What They Really Want

Satisfied CustomersSo many businesses today are understandably  worried about staying in business, but they don’t know where to get the information about how to tailor their business.  The customers they serve are their best market research.  The successful companies today are those that are engaging with their customers in order to provide products, services, and business models that their customers truly want. Customer service and customer satisfaction levels will greatly improve when customers are given what they want.

When asked, customers will gladly tell you what they want, when they want it, and how they want it.  They will tell you what about your company makes their life easier, and they will tell you what could be changed or improved.  By interacting with your customers, you will not only find out what they really do want from you, but you will strengthen the customer relationship and loyalty to your company.

There is a very good article titled Don’t Blow Your Budget – 3 proven low-cost ideas to grow your business posted on FuelNet today.  It presents some very customer centric ideas by Dan Adams, president of Advanced Industrial Marketing Inc. and author of New Product Blueprinting: The Handbook for B2B Organic Growth. The suggestions that Dan has are tapping into your customer base and growing your business according to their needs. His ideas expand on the basics of communicating with your customers – 1. Find out what our customers want;  2. Conduct customer interviews remotely; and 3. Get everyone listening to the voice of the customer.

By following these steps, the people who are currently keeping you in business will help you stay in business.

Your Customer Is Standing Right In Front of You!!!!

I recently was told a story that was too good not to pass along.

My friend had dropped his daughter off at dance class and went to the pizza place located next door to bring pizza home for dinner.  As he walked in, the two pizza makers were both on the phone taking orders and never looked up at him.  After roughly three or four minutes had passed and the phone continued to ring and still receiving no acknowledgment of his presence in the shop, my friend grabbed a flier off the wall and called the number of the pizza place he was standing in to place his order.  He witnessed the pizza maker answer his call, said “I’m standing right in front of you to place my order.” and was immediately placed on hold!

Phone

The pizza maker then motioned for a woman who had been waiting to come forward and pay for her pizzas that were ready.  My friend spoke up and said that he had been waiting to place his order.  The pizza maker responded that my friend was on the phone and he was too busy to wait for him to get off.  My friend responded that he was on the phone with the pizza maker, and was still on hold trying to place his order.

This situation is all too common and we see it in so many varying forms.  People sometimes joke that if it weren’t for their customers, they could actually get their jobs done!  While this is hopefully tongue in cheek, the attitude actually comes through this way to the customer.  The customers can’t ever be taken for granted and need to be served.  Without the customers, we wouldn’t even be in business.

Look at your business practices and examine how they handle your customers.  During busy times, are you properly staffed?  In the above example, clearly not.  If time and resources are limited, rethink the process in which you manage your traffic flow in order to fill the need, but still ALWAYS be there for your customers.

Being Customer Centric – Good Customer Service Equals High Customer Satisfaction

I receive the “Simple Truths” newsletter and glean so many practical business and life lessons from it.  Here is an excerpt that is truly worth passing on.  I highly recommend signing up for this newsletter.

The power of focus is critical to your success in business…and also in life. I must admit, however, that this is something that took me a while to learn, and I have a few “battle scars” to show what happens to slow learners regarding this issue. “More is better” sounds reasonable, but I’ve learned the opposite is usually true. Less, I’ve discovered, is usually more. The reason, of course, is that there is something powerful about laser-like focus. Having a simple, clearly defined goal can capture the imagination and enthusiasm of your people. It can cut through the night like a beacon. It can bring an idea to life.

SAS 737

In 1985, Jan Carlson had just been named the CEO of Scandinavian Airlines. His company was in trouble. They had just been ranked by a consumer poll as the worst airline in the world. Last in service, last in dependability, and last in profits as a percentage of sales. Yet one year later, in the same poll, they were ranked number one in all three categories. What happened?

Carlson had decided to focus on what he thought was the most critical issue…serving the customer. He wanted to keep it simple: identify every contact between the customer and the employee and treat that contact as “a moment of truth.” He set out to let his people know the importance of that moment…the captain, the ticket agent, the baggage handler, the flight attendant. “Every moment, every contact” he said, “must be as pleasant, and as memorable as possible.” He figured that he had approximately ten million customers each year, and on average each customer made contact with five of his people for approximately fifteen seconds apiece. Therefore, in his mind, these fifty million contacts, fifteen seconds at a time, would determine the fate of his company.

He set out to share his vision with his twenty thousand employees. He knew the key was to empower the front line. Let them make the decisions and take action, because they were Scandinavian Airlines during those fifteen seconds. He now had twenty thousand people who were energized and ready to go because they were focused on one very important thing…making every moment count.

I couldn’t have said it any better myself.

Trust and Relationships – These Improve Customer Satisfaction and Business Profits

Looking for a way to improve customer satisfaction, customer loyalty, and increase profits?  Here is a perfect example of being Customer Centric.

There is a company that sold gift certificates to local Chambers of Commerce in West Michigan.  The certificate were to be used in local area businesses as cash.  However, the company that sold the certificates has now ceased operations due to the economy and is unable to reimburse the vendors the money it collects in certificates as cash.

Some local Chambers have advised their vendors not to accept the certificates from consumers at all.  Some Chambers are taking the matter into consideration.  But one local Chamber is putting the needs of the customer first, even though it will cost them in the short run.

The loyalty that these businesses will earn from their customers will pay off in far more revenue than it will actually cost them, estimated at $108,000.  Customers will know what the local Chamber and vendors have done in this move to keep the trust of the consumers, and the consumers will go out of their way to generate more business locally.  Trust and relationships are crucial in today’s business world, and this is a clear example of how it works both ways.

As reported by Emily Zangaro of Wood TV 8Jane Clark, president of the Holland Area Chamber of Commerce, says more than $3 million in checks have been purchased in the area since 2001. It’s good business for local shops. That is why they will take the expected $108,000 hit — money that will be covered through a rainy day fund.

HollanDollars

“Even though there was a third party vendor, people bought these because they trusted the Holland Area Chamber of Commerce. And that trust is so precious that we didn’t want to violate that,” said Clark.

“It’s really hard for us as a restaurant or merchant to have to tell somebody that their certificate is worthless,” says Jurgensen. “We’re on the front line and I hate to do that to somebody.”

So now they won’t have to. They get the revenue and happy customers.

“Friendliness” Ranks High for Customer Satisfaction

When making hiring decisions within your organization, be sure to consider the “friendliness factor.”

Customers make their purchasing decisions based on how they feel.  When they are developing relationships with their service and product supplies, a person who smiles, is inviting, and is easy to talk to ranks high in the preferred qualities that customers list.  Be aware that the “Friendliness Factor” is not always something you can train for.  It really is based on the personality of the associates we hire.

This mentality is based on the premise that we place a lot of trust in our friends.  If we translate this into the business world, the customers who are treated as “friends” by our staff that is “friendly” are much more likely to do business with us rather than our competitors, who view them simply as a “customer.”

Remember that the number one reason cited almost 70% of the time as the main reason for leaving a business is solely based on the customer experience.  It’s just plain and good customer service to be nice and friendly.  Our “friendliness” is responsible for successful and sustainable relationships that not only exceed the expectations of our customers, but increase our profits as well.

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