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8 Keys to Success: Customer Care

Why is good customer service so important? In short, it's good for your business' bottom line.

"Increased loyalty can bring cost savings in several areas: reduced marketing costs, lower costs in contract negotiations and order processing, reduced customer churn expenses, increased cross–selling, and more positive word–of–mouth, reducing acquisition costs," according to the article Emotional Intelligence Takes Customer Loyalty to a Higher Level by Michael Greenbaum.1

Following are ideas that will help you show your customers how much you really do care.

Communicate

Keep your customers informed. Regularly update them on the specifics of their relationship with your company, recent changes or news about your business, and what's going on in the general marketplace of your industry. "One of the most important things to communicate to a customer is how they can use your product or service more effectively," says Joanna Brandi, author of Winning at Customer Retention, 101 Ways to Keep 'em Happy, Keep 'em Loyal, and Keep 'em Coming Back.

Brandi recommends communicating via phone calls, emails, newsletters, direct mail, and postcards — all are valuable (and proven to be successful) ways to contact your clients.

Be sure all written business communications are clear, concise, and grammatically correct. Also, remember to include a line that states how much you value the person's business.

Convenience

If you want people to keep coming back to you, you have to make it easy for them. Brandi summarizes the current consumer mentality as "It's 24/7, you've got to give it to me where I want it, you've go to give it to me when I want it, you've got to give it to me how I want it."

Simple changes you can make include, not keeping customers on hold, reducing the number of buttons people must press when using an automated phone answering system to reach a service representative, and changing your voicemail to let people know where you are and when they'll hear from you.

Do it on their timeframe

Ask customers when they need an item or service, answer phones swiftly, deliver packages promptly, and be sure your Internet pages are up–to–date and load rapidly.

Do it their way

We are in an era of mass customization. "Everybody wants it their own way. Everybody wants to be able to feel like what you're doing for them is special, even if it's not. It needs to look special for that customer," says Brandi.

How can you possibly keep up with all of your customers' needs and desires? Brandi suggests using a Customer Relationship Management system. These databases track essential information like contact information, purchasing history, and buying habits.

Consistent experiences

Yes, you want to surprise and delight your customers, but you also want them to know they can count on a certain level of service from you every time. To accomplish this goal, you need to understand customer expectations and then develop quality standards. Be assured, if you provide exceptional customer service, people will talk.

Ask customers

Consider establishing a customer advisory board to learn more about your customers' wants and needs. Asking simple questions like what's new in their businesses, what's new in their lives, and what would they like to see from your company in the future can help you gain valuable insight.

Recovery skills

Customers will remember their last experience, according to Brandi, and they may or may not give your company a second chance, especially if you make a mistake. "We have a small zone of tolerance for screwing up," says Brand, "but unfortunately, because of the pressure everybody's under, the customer's zone of tolerance is shrinking."

Sit down and think about everything that could go wrong during a transaction with your company. Decide how you would solve each of these situations and then get this information out to your employees. Empower your employees,  so customers won't be passed from one person to the next to the next — a reality most find very frustrating.

Really care

One of the top reasons customers will stop doing business with you is because they think you don't care about their business, says Brandi. She recommends treating customers with compassion and trying not to make them feel foolish.

Offering quality products and services is just the start to making customers happy, Greenbaum says "customers look for positive, emotionally sensitive, and memorable experiences. Delivering this gives you a competitive edge over those who merely offer high–quality service."


1Greenbaum, Michael, "Emotional Intelligence Takes Customer Loyalty to a Higher Level," Business and Management Practices, Copyright 2000 Penton Media, Inc., Boardwatch Magazine, Vol. XIV, No. 7; Pg. 120–122

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