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How To Achieve Customer Satisfaction

Customers are arguably the single most important asset of any enterprise, large or small. Many companies, even with the best of intentions sometimes fall into the trap of taking their clients for granted, especially when things are going well. Yet building customer satisfaction and loyalty are becoming increasingly important in this time of heightened competition and globalisation. A motto or policy to adopt with customers is: "If you're not happy, were not happy". Your customer looks for seven values in any purchasing decision. These are the values you must deliver if you want a customer to come back. Cost, time, difficulty is low; does the job; fits with other things I am doing; Is readily available; makes me feel important or successful; gives me a wonderful story to tell others. The most important factor in gaining and retaining customers is the memory you leave with them, the story that they tell to others. Such stories give pleasure in the telling and bring excited new customers to you.

The word service comes from the same root as helping, aiding, serving, servant and slave. You truly must work for your customer and satisfy their needs to earn your success. Remember this quote "there is only one boss, and that is the customer. And they can fire everybody in the company, from the chairman on down, simply by spending money somewhere else." It costs 7-9 times more to attract a new customer than it does to keep an existing one. A typical dissatisfied customer will tell 10 people about their problem. Approximately 7 of 10 complaining customers will do business with you again if you resolve the complaint in their favour. If you resolve a complaint on the spot, 95% of customers will do business again. If you hope to stand out from the crowd and gain a competitive edge, your ultimate goal should not just meet, but exceed the customers' expectations. Remember, the satisfied customer tells no one. The unhappy customer tells a dozen others. Listed below are a few points to help you achieve customer satisfaction:
  • Always make the customer your first priority! Your business exists because of your customers, and they should be the primary focus of your operations. Uncaring, impersonal service can be disastrous; most unhappy customers never complain but they won't buy again and they will tell many others.
  • Make the job look easy. Ensure your employees are well trained and competent for the job required. Don't complain or indicate inconvenience. A cheerful and efficient "can-do" attitude keeps customers happy.
  • Use the creativity and experience of your staff! Delegate, encourage, empower, and communicate with staff. Employees will be more productive and you will have more time to manage operations rather than 'putting out fires'.
  • Increase the knowledge level of your customers. Ensure customers know the full range of services provided in order to get sales in new areas. Communicate with the customer regarding information affecting the purchase decision (i.e. timing/availability/freight, etc.)
  • Emphasize quality. Price, quality, and service are the three main areas of comparison when making a purchasing decision. Purchasing decisions are seldom based solely upon price. Ensure work is done in a timely and efficient manner. Set internal deadlines for accomplishing tasks as a standard for service.
  • Listen to requests, accept changes, and respond positively to uncertainty. Customers may require order changes affecting existing arrangements. How these requests are serviced is important to the purchaser and their comfort level for making future orders.
  • Communicate effectively with your customers. Approach tasks with confidence, perform effectively and follow-up quickly on problems. Be honest with customers and discuss difficulties frankly with them. Deal with people in a forthright and timely manner to eliminate potentially negative situations before they occur.
  • Your customer expects prompt, courteous service. When asking for service help, your customer should never have to make a second call.
  • Research if and how other companies are doing things better than you, with the ultimate goal of imitating or improving on their techniques. Talk to suppliers and customers to glean general information on how your competitors operate and what they do differently.
  • Establish a clearly defined and attainable service standards using the input of customers and employees. Ensure that those standards are thoroughly understood by employees and promoted to customers. Put the standards into practise through employee reward programs that establish and recognize excellence in service.
  • Build customer service into every job, not just frontline sales, and marketing positions. Inventory control, delivery people, switchboard operators, repair and service staff, billing and accounts receivable employees all can have an impact.
  • Give the front line staff the latitude to make key, on the spot decisions regarding legitimate customer concerns. Do not leave customers with the impression they are getting the run around.
  • Offer customers positive solution, not more problems. They do not want to hear why you cannot do something, or how they could of avoided their problems in the first place. Make after sales service and follow up support a priority.
  • Encourage complaints. Studies show that some 95% of unhappy customers wont complain, but most will never use you again. A client who expresses his or her dissatisfaction will do business with you again if their problem is resolved to their satisfaction, and they will relay their satisfaction to other people.
  • Respond quickly and fairly to all complaints. Provide customers with a simple procedure for registering a complaint; and keep your client informed regarding the resolution of a complaint. Deliver more than what your customer expects.
  • Always use your customers' name, showing you enjoy saying it. Be polite but enthusiastic. Look around for ways to compliment the customer.
  • Listen carefully to what the customer has to say. Listen for ideas or hidden complaints. Make it easy for the customer to tell you what he or she is really thinking.
  • Consider installing a 1-800 line or sending out postage paid service assessment cards to customers in order to stimulate feedback.
  • Remember, word of mouth referrals from satisfied customers are the least expensive and most effective form of advertising.
  • You are the company that the customer sees. The customer is always evaluating you, so look great. If you dress badly, your customer thinks the company does not care much about service.

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