By Greg Reyneke
You can’t please everyone all the time, but you certainly can try.
It is 2010, the year after one of the worst our industry has ever experienced. The global recession has impacted the way that we all do business, and a notable side effect across all industries is an overall decline in customer satisfaction. As companies reacted to the economic shock, the first victims of fiscal belt-tightening were employee training, and staffing, which created an environment for declining customer service, satisfaction and loyalty.
Your business requires customers. Without customers who are willing to pay you for the products, services and expertise that you offer, your business is just an expensive hobby. Your customer pays your paycheck!
- Customer Service. Identifiable tangible and intangible activities undertaken by a retailer in conjunction with the basic goods and services it sells.
- Customer Satisfaction. An abstract measure of a customer’s perception of satisfaction with their buying and service experience.
- Customer Loyalty. The behavior of repeat customers, as well as those who provide good ratings, reviews or testimonials. Some loyal customers even provide favorable word-of-mouth publicity, telling friends and family. Customer loyalty is a process geared toward keeping your customer continuously happy and engaged, so he or she will provide you with more business and referrals.
The key to customer service is service. You are serving your customer and they expect you to act accordingly. Being friendly, punctual and honest with clients will ensure that you begin to service their needs appropriately.
A customer’s opinion of you grows and develops with every interaction. Make sure that you and your employees are happy to do your jobs and are capable of dealing with unique personalities. When dealing with clients, your friendly and respectful attitude is what will make the difference.
Remember that you are the thermostat for your business; if you treat your employees with respect and friendliness, they will treat your customers and each other the same way. Confidence, not arrogance, is critical in providing customers with the assurance they need to know that you are the expert they hope you to be.
Customer satisfaction—is the customer always right?
No, the customer isn’t always right, but she certainly wants to be treated with genuine respect and empathy. When someone takes the time to call, walk in or write to complain or express concerns, they have the right to be heard and understood.
Strive to resolve customer complaints and concerns with reasonable/equitable solutions that are in everyone’s best interest. You can’t please everyone all the time, but you certainly can try.
One of the most glaring shortfalls I see in many water dealerships that I consult with is a lack of documented/structured procedures for dealing with customer complaints. It is very important to develop a uniform procedure for addressing, mitigating and resolving customer complaints and concerns. Are you keeping a record of your customer-service interactions? Are you evaluating the data with your management and employees? Every customer complaint and resolution should be evaluated and used as a learning experience for the future.
Customer loyalty is a lifetime process
Customer service is the bare minimum goal that you should set for your team. Serving your clients is always expected and rarely ever appreciated. Your end-goal is to create a loyal customer; someone who appreciates you for who you are and what you do, is willing to refer you to their friends and family, and will continue to use your services.
Creating customer loyalty is really not as hard as some might think; you simply need to serve your customers well, keep them generally satisfied, and help them remember you. Satisfied customers are not necessarily loyal customers. Satisfied customers are just as happy to work with you as they are to work with your competitor, so you need to be incentivized to stay loyal. Keys to customer loyalty:
- Keep your customers satisfied.
- Train yourself and employees to be friendly towards customers.
- Deal with complaints and concerns quickly and fairly.
- Genuinely appreciate your customers.
- Make your customer interactions memorable.
- Periodically evaluate your procedures and make necessary changes.
- Ask for referrals.
- Say thank you.
Keeping people satisfied is less than half of the equation, since your true business goal is to ensure a lifetime service relationship with your customers. Customer loyalty can’t be bought; it is earned.
About the author
Greg Reyneke, CWS-VI, is currently General Manager at Intermountain Soft Water in Lindon, UT and serves on the WC&P Technical Review Committee. He also serves on the advisory board of the Smart Dealer Network, a trade association dedicated to helping independent water treatment dealers succeed in today’s changing world and reach their full potential.