I imagine a lot of you have a sales and marketing plan in place. You understand the need for a strategic approach to customer acquisition. You probably have a good idea of who your customers are, how to create messages that speak to their specific needs and where to place your messages so your potential customers see them.
But... do you also have a customer service strategy in place?
When your sales and marketing activities work and a new customer walks through your doors, the time, effort and money put into your efforts are lost if that new customer leaves, vowing never to return, because of poor service. When your customer comes back again and again, you have stretched the reach of your initial dollars. If they are so happy with you that they recommend others visit you, you've stretched those dollars even further. After all, you don't want one transaction from each customer; you want multiple transactions from as many customers as possible.
That's why a customer service strategy is so important. The sales and marketing strategy gets customers in the door; a customer service strategy keeps them coming back.
When developing a customer service strategy, incorporate the following:
- The service expectations of your customers, based on the product or service that you offer. Remember, you can't be all things to all people. Who are your customers, who is your target market and what do they want? If you offer thick, juicy made-to-order burgers, you will not be able to provide a two minute burger. That's what fast food restaurants are for.
- Customer feedback. Your customer service strategy needs to include a process to generate and review customer comments and feedback, both internal and external customers. Don't assume you know what your customers/employees want. Ask them! You may find out that there are some significant gaps that you can address and still stay true to your business model.
- Clearly defined service standards. Telling your employees to be friendly isn't enough. What does friendly look like? How do you want "friendly" conveyed on the telephone? Some examples of customer service standards are: a) All incoming phone calls will be answered with the greeting "Thank you for calling Servicedge Consulting & Training. This is Laurie speaking. How may I help you?"; b) Customers will receive a response to a voice mail messages within 4 hours. While you're at it, create internal customer service standards as well. The service that is provided to internal customers tends to flow to external customers. Be sure that everyone in your company clearly understands the importance of internal customer service.
- A training plan. Your employees need to know what you expect from them if you want them to provide consistent service. What training do new hires need? What about training for long-time employees? Sometimes we make the mistake of assuming that employees who have been with us for a while are trained and we forget about them. It can be easy to fall into a rut after doing the same job for a long time. On-going training helps keep expectations front and center.
- Performance management. In order for the service standards to be adopted by your team, they need to know that you take it seriously enough to evaluate whether or not the standards are being followed. Take the time to recognize and reward employees who are providing the service levels that you ask for. Provide additional coaching and mentoring when the service standards are not being met.
- A recovery plan. The reality is mistakes will be made, either due to errors by your employees or by your suppliers. Take the time to identify service delivery cracks. Work with your team members to identify service recovery options. Be sure to include service recovery training in your training plan.
If your company doesn't have a clearly defined service strategy in place, I encourage you to take the time to create one. While you probably won't envision every situation or customer touch point, a well thought out plan reduces the number of customer complaints and service issues.
Don't leave customer service to chance. It's too costly!
To learn more about how much unhappy customers cost your business, visit www.servicedge.ca/.