Managing and Matching Customer Expectations
Customers aren’t happy and we need to get them roped back in. Can customer delivery problems be addressed productively? Is there a cookie-cutter approach?
THOUGHTS OF THE DAY: It’s a home run when you and the customer agree on what’s expected and you’re able to deliver exactly that. Know that customers who take time to explain their concerns are doing you a big favor. Set up a system to learn from breakdowns. Strive to match customer demands for level of quality, pricing and accountability.
In the sales, delivery and ongoing service phases, instead of telling customers what you can deliver, shift the focus and become more of a listener. Find out what they’re looking to receive. Ask questions about how their needs do, and don’t, get met. Frequently refresh that data, as the needs of your customers may change on a regular basis. Use the information you gather to tailor your offers to meet their needs.
Customers can easily go elsewhere without saying a word. And, when they do, they often leave your company in the dark as to what went wrong. Show employees how to mine complaint calls for feedback on what needs to be fixed.
Teach everyone who comes into contact with customers how to act with grace under fire. A calm demeanor and patience will go a long way toward successfully resolving an unhappy customer situation. Practicing what to say and do when a customer is hot under the collar means that your staff is better able to maintain control as they work to fix the problem.
While complaints may differ, you can develop a uniform approach to how you handle them. Teach your people to say “thank you for the feedback” and then ask how the customer would like things resolved — without making any promises yet as to what can be done about the issue. Make sure to get contact information and specify a time frame in which the customer will hear back.
Fill out a customer complaint sheet on every incident. Log who called, who took the call, details about the complaint, who the problem was referred to, how the issue was addressed and whether the customer was ultimately satisfied. Use those sheets to track how and how well, incidents are resolved. Periodically meet as a team to review all complaints and look for trends and opportunities to improve. Make it everyone’s mission to reduce incidents as you learn how to improve every aspect of your operation.
Make operations accountable for delivering a great customer experience. Do periodic check-ins on the quality and accuracy of what gets delivered. Put someone in charge of inspecting and reporting on the work your company performs, with an eye to exceeding standards for quality and satisfaction. If there are gaps, figure out where they come from and what changes are needed.
Give your operations people the authority to intervene and make changes when customer expectations are not being met. Review performance regularly, publish the results and ask what operations plans to work on next to reduce incidents and improve satisfaction.
Talk to your people about the importance of earning customer loyalty by delivering above and beyond what’s expected. Don’t allow delivery personnel to ask a customer for a quick signoff at delivery and think that’s an accurate assessment of the experience. Circle back to find out how satisfied the customer was a day or a week later.
Remember, it takes much more effort to sell a new customer, versus what it takes to retain an existing customer. Focus on smoothing out the bumps in customer satisfaction in order to improve profits and reduce stress.
LOOKING FOR A GOOD BOOK? Try “More is More; How the Best Companies Go Farther and Work Harder to Create Knock-Your-Socks-Off Customer Experiences” by Blake Morgan.