Monday, September 15, 2008

4 tips to Improve your Customer Service

Wisdom from Customers Rock!:

Where are Your Sales and Marketing Efforts Focused?

I was recently reading an annual report for a successful company, and, as always, I looked at the words used about customers. Some reports are only about a company’s internal products, services, and processes. They may even include awards the company has won in the past year, in addition to all the necessary financial information.

A Customer Focus

In this report, I looked for more. Specifically, I looked to see how much customer focus there was in the report. As a company providing services, their business depends on building strong client relationships. This is reflected throughout their report!

On each page where they showcased big wins or achievements in certain industries, there was also a story about rapport with clients and trusted advisor relationships. These relationships, as it is told, were key to cementing ongoing business with existing clients. The proactive nature of the client managers was apparent in other stories shared about resolving problems before they became big issues. On another page, they shared a client success about one who moved on to another job but was anxious to keep the relationships going by doing business with the same people they had been working with for years.

Strong Relationships

These strong client-company relationships are the foundation of the success of this business. The annual report is written in such a way as to bring out this focus and showcase it as a competitive differentiator. These types of client relationships definitely help to create a barrier to exit for the company. The only improvement I would love to see in these reports is to start indicating the existing customer base as an asset to be measured! (For more on this concept, see the book Return on Customerby Don Peppers and Martha Rogers, PhD.)

So Where are Your Sales and Marketing Efforts Focused?

When I do speaking events, I have quite a number of people come up afterwards to say they realized they have left the nurture of their existing customers to chance. They have been so busy going after new customers, they have left the “old” ones to their own devices! Unfortunately, in this difficult economy, this is often the case. I just saw a Tweet (that is the term Twitter uses for a message) from Eric Brown, founder of Urbane Apartments (who is also a frequent commenter here at Customers Rock! - thanks, Eric!!). Here is what he indicated in his 140 characters:

“Six of our eight stabilized properties are 100% leased! We are NOT participating in a poor economy”

I Tweeted back that I was not surprised by this as Eric and his company have a very strong customer focus! You can see for yourself here on his website and blog; additionally, Eric will be guest posting for us soon and will share his story. For Eric and Urbane Apartments, Customers Rock!

4 Key Questions to Improve Your Focus

You can bolster business by expanding sales and marketing focus to include existing customers. In order to do so, there are some critical questions that each business should ask themselves. I have listed the top 4 as follows:

  1. How many customers did we keep from last year? Do you know? Many businesses find that they are good at tracking new customers but lose track of those that slip out the back.
  2. Why did we lose customers? Ideally, this analysis is done each time a customer leaves. At that very moment, you need to reach out to them and find out what went wrong. If you do this religiously, it is possible to salvage some of these valuable relationships.
  3. Why do our best customers keep doing business with us? Ask them! Find out whether it is your offerings, your service, your people, or all of the above. It will help you prioritize where to focus for improvement, as well as understand which things to keep on doing. It may also highlight potential areas of concern for certain clients.
  4. How many of our retained customers can help us sell more? Customers can do this for us in many ways: buying additional products or services themselves, specifically referring us to others, and sharing great testimonials about us. When is the last time you asked a customer for a testimonial? Make it a regular part of the way you do business!

Do you have other key questions that you use to evaluate and grow your repeat business? What have I left out?

Winning the Game

Your existing customers want to be loyal to you. They want to be recognized and thanked for their business. When a business creates a proactive customer strategy to retain and grow their current customers, everyone wins. Customers feel appreciated and, in turn, buy more and refer you to others. The company grows their business with fewer resources. Sounds like a great way to beat the current economic woes!

(Image credit: olivier26)

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1 comment:

Marianne Hynd said...

Great article! Companies need to focus on the "customer" in customer service. By constantly listening to customers and measuring satisfaction, they can be more in tune to why customers stay, why they leave, and what they want for a true customer experience.

I recently read an article that explained how customers are spending less in the curernt economic climate, but are expecting more out of customer service. Proactive customer service stratgies are definitely the way to go - companies can benefit from keeping these 4 tips in mind!