It is an accepted fact that it costs more to get a new customer than it does to keep an existing one coming back. Yet somehow companies and organizations keep neglecting the wisdom of a bird at hand being worth more than two or even three in the bush.
It is possible to create a very loyal customer base and consideration of the following customer service statistics will drive home how important it is in these modern, competitive times that an organization keeps its customers happy and coming back;
It costs between 5 and 6 times more to attract a new customer than to keep an existing one.
One out of 25 dissatisfied customers will express their dissatisfaction to you
Happy customers tell 4 to 5 others of their positive experience. Dissatisfied customers tell 9 to 12 people of their displeasure.
What does the above statistics mean to your organization? Simply that a serious organization cannot afford to let disgruntled customers leave that way. The organization should be able to limit to the barest possible minimum the number of dissatisfied customers. The fact that only one in 25 will tell your company about his dissatisfaction is true in the global market and this portends danger. On several occasions I have been in a financial institution to transact some business and watched the frustration and sadness on many of the customers as they stood in long unmoving queues. Several of them, as they left the bank, vowed to close their account with the said bank and find themselves another.
This brings the question; How possibly can a serious business organization set forth to build a loyal customer base so committed to the brand that they will be counted upon to spread the good news to more people.
One of the important actions is setting up hassle free organization to customer communication channels. Whether a customer has just done business with you once or has been a regular there should be means of reaching him or her regularly as a way of keeping in touch, knowing and solving his complaints if any with the product or service rendered to him. This is why no matter how big the firm is it should have a customer data capturing system to enable it reach its numerous customers. This is even more important for small and medium businesses because they can put in a personal touch and reach their customers more effectively with inquiries, new or discounted offers, promos etc.
Social media is one other very powerful but slightly overlooked means of maintaining customer loyalty to a brand. That however is topic for another day
Customer Service – A little extra
One of the best ways to ensure that a good number of your customers leave happily and contented with service rendered is by keeping your customer service section on top of their job. They should be schooled in the art of giving that little extra beyond the customer’s expectations. You can do that by training and retraining them in interpersonal relations, giving them more responsibilities to handle likely customer complaints and constantly monitoring performance. You will rather move an emotionally disturbed or bereaved customer service attendant to a backroom job than leave her on the service desk where she may be totally unable to cope with the various shades of customer behavior she is likely to encounter.
You cannot build a loyal customer base when you don’t even have loyal staff. It’s much like believing you can erect a mighty house without foundations. Your people relate with customers every day. Their demeanor and actions rub off positively or negatively on the customers. So the smart manager or CEO will have to embark on measures to create fiercely loyal employees who will in turn be motivated to give the best service to customers. But this is a hefty task in itself and can only be achieved by first, seeing your people as individuals with unique abilities and weaknesses and not as a bunch of nameless mass workers.
Sometimes you will need to prod and pet your way into your customers’ hearts but the way and manner of your incentives is what matters. If possible your incentives should be unique and not what every other organization gives. Give exciting and relevant incentives to first time customers and regularly create an incentive package to encourage existing customers to do more business with you
Your Service Environment
Make sure you don’t go expecting the best from your people without adequately improving the place of service. Your customer service environment should be conducive to your employees and at the same time customers who will be coming there for one reason or the other. Get from your customer service reps what will make their work easier and put all those things in place. Your service environment should not be overlooked because it can affect your staff performance and of course your customers’ mood.
Product and Service Awareness
Loyal customers must be aware of your products and services. In fact it is the increased awareness of the superiority of your products and services that will help induce that loyalty in them. So many consumers when they are hooked to a great product they hardly leave unless something catastrophic happens with the product. Same thing with great service. Consumers are human beings and so have habits. Most people go to a particular restaurant/fast food outlet.
Most people make calls with a particular telephone service provider. If asked they may not have a straight answer or they may tell you they just like it. If you are a start-up or your firm is launching a new product your primary aim should be awareness, awareness, and more awareness. If consumers are not aware of how good your product is there will be no talk of falling in love with it. That means you should be prepared to lose heavily at first, giving away samples, letting people have a go at your services and letting them know good what you are offering is. If your product or offering is truly superb you’ll have repeat customers and then you’ll have to make sure you keep them happy, addicted and coming back.
They say it’s hard to build a good reputation but it takes a day or just one incident to shoot a fantastic reputation down. This is as close to the truth as it gets. The way consumers see your company, the views they have of your firm will determine if you will have millions of loyal customers or not. A product can even have a reputation somewhat different from that of the company that produces it but no matter how good that product is the reputation of the parent company takes something away from it. Some of the worst reputations I’ve seen some companies build include;
Reputation for Poor Customer Service
Reputation of Extortion (reminds me of a telecommunications company)
Reputation of Unreliability. And so on.
And the funny thing? Some of these companies even with their bad reputations still rake in profits year after year. But as the market gets more competitive in the areas of Aviation and Transport Services, Financial Services, Technology and Communications and Manufacturing etc these organizations with bad reputations will lose more and more.
About the Author: Paul Eze is the MD/Principal Consultant of Pejas Consulting. Get more cutting edge business advice at his business strategy and marketing blog