If your business isn’t delivering top-notch customer or client service today, you’re likely not long for this world. In virtually all sectors, competition is fierce and customers can search and switch to the other guy at the drop of a hat.
Here are some signs your customer service strategy could use a makeover:
- You have a high customer churn rate for your industry;
- You focus more on customer acquisition than customer retention;
- Your customer feedback scores are less than stellar.
Toronto-based Prompta Consulting Group helps companies that want to become more customer-centric. These are culture transformations that take time. And they don’t succeed unless they have the full engagement of top leadership.
“It needs to work its way all the way through the entire organization,” explains Prompta managing partner Tim Morton. “It needs to be tied to the direction of the company, how people are going to be rewarded, how they’re measured, and it needs to be tied to processes and procedures.”
Prompta’s job is to get people thinking and working in different ways to truly become customer-focused. And while Prompta tends to work its intricate culture-change magic with large national and multinational corporations, the lessons apply equally to small business.
Top and bottom
Setting a customer-centric culture starts at the top and reaches the bottom. If you’re a leader who thinks you can delegate responsibility for customer experience and service to those managing front-line staff, you’ll likely be scratching your head for a while over your low Net Promoter Score. The leader’s example needs to be effective enough that the position on customer experience is well understood at every level of the business – not just those dealing directly with the customer.
The most important element of solid client service is trust. You build trust with your clients by honouring confidentiality agreements, operating with transparency, appropriately mitigating risk and engaging in honest, accountable communication. And you need that trust in order to deliver courageous conversations.
Whether you need to deliver the news that a retail order is late or tell a CEO that his decision doesn’t align with his strategic imperatives, great customer service includes having courageous conversations. With integrity.
Do what you said you will do. If you’re often pumping up promised results in your proposals, worrying about how you’ll deliver only after you land the new client, you have some gaps to fill. One brand we worked with for a few years in the startup phase, KANDY Outdoor Flooring, has built its culture around a set of core values that includes “deliver on every promise.” This speaks to a leader-driven customer-centric operation that focuses on results for the customer. KANDY is doing something right: the brand was a finalist in the 2016 Better Business Bureau Torch Awards.
Your aim should be to leave your customer feeling enriched for having done business with you. At Prompta, Morton reports that often the executive lead for their transformational project will get promoted at the end of the project. That shows they’ve created value and the impact is felt well beyond the scope of why they were hired.
Respect for culture
Even if you’re being hired to change the culture, as Prompta often is, it’s important to respect the existing culture of your customers. Pay attention to the way things are done, how they interact and blend in.
Here are some stats that help underscore the importance of strong client service in business:
- How many happy customers are needed to generate nine referrals? Just one. (American Express)
- How many customers report having switched service providers due to poor customer service? Sixty-eight per cent. (Accenture)
- Customer service is important in the choice of and loyalty to a brand to what percentage of global consumers? Ninety-seven per cent. (Parature)
Management consultant and author Peter Drucker said, “The purpose of business is to create and keep customers.”
Make the focus of your world your customer and more customers will focus on you.
Between them, Boni and John Wagner-Stafford have five decades of experience as entrepreneurs and/or providing consulting services to other small businesses across Canada.