Achieving Excellence in Customer Service
The objective of excellent customer service is to profitably create ‘raving fans’ for your business. These customers not only keep coming back to you time and again – they also send new customers your way.
In order to create ‘raving fans’ you must create an experience your customer will remember – a ‘WOW’ factor – the ability to overwhelmingly surprise customers by continually exceeding their expectations.
Like most winning business strategies – excellence in customer service starts with getting the fundamentals right, and progresses toward service mastery.
Let’s introduce you to our Customer Service "Ladder of Loyalty"…
The Ladder of Loyalty – first steps
To begin with a business should look at its target market as a pool of SUSPECTS. This is the bottom rung on the ladder. These are potential leads based on your ideal customer profile.
Once the suspect becomes interested in your product or service and makes an inquiry, they become a PROSPECT. At this stage it’s up to you to start compiling a database of information and details, like names, contact information, and a reference for how that prospect heard about your company. This database can then be used in a variety of ways invite prospects to do business with you.
From Shopper to Customer
The next rung on the ladder is a SHOPPER – a person who buys something from your business for the first time but they have not yet determined that you are a vendor they want to do business with again.
The key here for your business is to confirm buyer details, and add those details to the company database so you can start building trust and a relationship with them, and most importantly – invite them to do business with you again.
What can a business do to confirm those details?
People will give information if there is something in it for them. This could be a ‘frequent buyers club’ or loyalty card scheme, or perhaps offering a gift for making a purchase that day. There are unlimited ways to create a win-win where your company gets the information you need, and the buyer feels valued for providing that information.
Rewards need not be money off; in fact you can be really creative and fun with this – the important thing is to show perceived value. A great example is British retail chain Charles Tyrwhit Shirts. Upon collecting first time shopper details, they send a letter by traditional post from the company founder after the first purchase, an extract of which reads:
“…please accept my thanks for giving a humble but passionate shirt company a chance. Quality menswear is my life and I am delighted to have you as a customer, you are fantastic….
P.S As the bearer of the enclosed voucher you will be recognised instantly as one of our most important customers, and you are assured of the very best ‘red carpet’ treatment. Do visit soon…”
I’m just after being told I’m fantastic and if I purchase again I get to use a voucher and receive red carpet treatment! Why wouldn’t I visit soon! This is an excellent example of making a customer feel truly valued in a quirky and innovative way, while also inviting them to do business with you again to move them up the ladder of loyalty.
A shopper becomes a CUSTOMER only when they buy a second time. Studies have shown it is six times easier to sell to a shopper, and ten times easier to sell to a customer than to make an initial sale to a suspect, so a second purchase is an important step in building a long-term customer relationship.
Members, Advocates and Raving Rans
On the lower levels of the ladder, there is very little customer loyalty. If a competitor comes along with a better proposal, customers are more than likely to give them a try, and you may never see that customer again.
The art of achieving a high level of customer loyalty is to move them further up the ladder, so that they become loyal clients and eventually raving fans.
With the advent of email, blogging and social media, you can remain in contact with your customers as regularly as you like for the minimum of investment. The more traditional method of keeping in touch with your customers include telephone calls, newsletters, direct mail and entertaining. Whichever method you use, you must bear in mind the appropriateness of the medium, its effectiveness and its value to the customer.
Once the customer becomes a consistent buyer of your products and services, you may begin offering incentives and privileges so that they become MEMBERS and no longer look elsewhere for competitive products or services.
Members do business with you because of the relationship and trust that you have developed. A member for example might be given membership cards which entitle them to extras such as ‘members only’ evenings where they get the first viewing of new products at specially discounted prices. This feeling of exclusivity helps to cement customer loyalty and move your customers towards the top of the ladder.
An ADVOCATE, the sixth rung on the ladder, is a member who tells others about your company, product or service without being prompted. Advocates can be true business-builders for companies, because they get businesses real results through referrals and testimonials.
Finally, advocates turn into RAVING FANS by literally selling your business for you by their word-of-mouth recommendations. They cannot help but tell everyone they meet how wonderful your product, service, or company is.
Getting to raving fan status is the result of always putting your customers first and having excellent relationships with them from the very beginning. A lot of that involves getting every detail right, and empowering your front line team to go the extra mile – every single time.
At this stage you have well and truly moved away from having to sell on price. It’s now about maintaining relationship. Once they become a raving fan, not only can you guarantee they will always buy from you, but they will go a stage further and start actively recommending other people to come to you, thus helping to fill your sales pipeline.
So, how many RAVING FANS do you have in your customer base? And what would happen to your business if you implemented some new customer service innovations to move everyone in your database up one level?
Massive profits do not occur by bringing more suspects or prospects into your database, but rather moving one time shoppers to customers, to members…all the way up the ladder of loyalty to raving fan status.
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Paul Fagan is Managing Director of Business Coaching Ireland, which is part of the largest business coaching, mentoring and training franchise company in the world, ActionCOACH Business Coaching. Business Coaching Ireland are providers of the ManagementWorks Business Growth Programme and Business Leadership Programme.