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  • Karen Gregory

GAINING CUSTOMER LOYALTY


In all but a very few industries customers have the privilege of choosing who they will do business with. It is in your best interest to be exceptionally concerned with how your customers are being treated when they do business with your organization. Satisfactory service is not the goal, and if that is what you are working towards it’s not enough. You want a plan in place so you know the customer only thinks of you when they are in need of the services you provide. It’s the only way to ensure customer loyalty and recommendations. I was moved to write on the topic of customer service because as consumers we are faced daily with interactions that involve the human element of providing a service – whether it is in person, over the phone, or on the internet. And, sadly, over the past several weeks have run across multiple examples of poor customer service – which doesn’t lead to customer loyalty. Following are some tips on how to get and maintain customer loyalty: 1. Make customer service your number one priority. Without your customers there is no need for your service. Your employees must be on board. They need to know what is expected of them when dealing with customers and they need to know the appropriate ways to deal with unhappy customers, interruptions, questions that arise that they cannot answer, or any situation that throws them off task. You, as their leader, are responsible for making sure they understand their role and how it affects business. The employee also needs to know what will happen if customers are mistreated, and you, as their leader, needs to be prepared to follow-through. 2. Be present. Know what is going on within your organization. Observe your employees interacting with your customers. I am certain some of the people I have observed in a customer service role would have been removed from that role if their leader had been present. I’m not suggesting that you have to hover over their shoulders, but be aware of what is going on. Even employees that have been in customer service for years need reminders, and praise, at times. 3. If you are going to invest in a customer service satisfaction survey, use the data to make improvements. Unless you are scoring top marks on every survey you have room for improvement. Remember, it is only the top mark that generates customer loyalty. 4. Be honest. If you, or your employee, do not have the answer or the information be honest. Tell your customer you will find the answer and get back to them. In a situation I recently witnessed, some customers were given false information while others were given honest information. It led to confusion, chaos, and rampant complaining. Not only that, but because the situation was handled so poorly customers began to talk to each other. It got to the point that it didn’t matter what the organization did to smooth the situation over, none of the customers were happy. I wonder how many will ever return to that organization for the services they provide. 5. Make training a priority. Whether you are willing to send your employees to training – especially the employees directly involved in customer service – or whether you get creative and provide training on your own – do the training! There is nothing more valuable than coming up with a scenario and then running through it with your employees. Or, if there was an incident with one of your customers, talk it out with your employee. Discuss options of how the situation could have been handled differently, or how it will be handled in the future. There is nothing like practice to make people more confident in their interactions with others. Customer loyalty should be your goal and good customer service will take you one step closer to obtaining it. Loyalty will come more from the emotion of your customer – how did you make them feel? I do more business with people who treat me fairly, smile, interact with me in a pleasant manner, and care about my experience with them. If you think about it, I bet you do too. Be that type of organization for your customers and watch them come back again and again.

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