Service is only part of what it takes to satisfy customers. In fact, good customer service may not create customer satisfaction. For example, a restaurant could provide excellent service and serve a poorly prepared meal. You won’t be satisfied with the dining experience.
Customer satisfaction yields profits in four ways.
• Increases chances for repeat purchase
• Creates positive word-of-mouth promotion
• Increases customer spending on current purchases
• Positively impacts cash flow
Companies known for customer satisfaction out perform others in their industry. This means the company out performs their competitors by providing higher quality products and higher quality services. It also means the company makes more profits than industry averages and performs better in the market place. This is all easy to say, but how do you do it? There are three major considerations to creating satisfied customers.
Strategy defines who you are and the direction you are going. A well-conceived strategy for service will lead the business to satisfy customers. Products need to fit the value perception and service system provided. For this to happen you need to develop a strategy. To develop a strategy you should consider:
• What are the customer’s satisfaction priorities? Is it price? What level of quality? Is location the priority? Is it doing the billing for your customers? Find out what your customer’s priorities are.
• What are the customer’s defined quality expectations and preferences. A key part of developing a satisfied customer is to find out and deliver expectations and priorities. For the airline industry that would be taking off and landing on time. This is basic, and then comes a convenient schedule of flights.
• Benchmark the best practices. Find out who is doing the best job and do them one better.
Hire and train people who want to work with customers. The old adage is find me a person with a good attitude and I’ll teach them what they need to do. Hiring right and avoid hiring out of desperation. Look for people who would make you nervous if they worked for your competitor.
Orient right so they will want to work for your company and so they will know how great you are. Communicate with them on a constant basis. Everyone needs to know everything about everything should be the motto. A company that hires people with knowledge, skills and abilities should also look at how they want these people to work in a variety of situations. Train, train, and train so that they are empowered to take care of business without having to be constantly monitored.
Systems have to do with how work is processed. Products are produced using a variety of processes to make the final product. Processes are also used to service customers. Systems should enhance and help employees to do their jobs. For example, cash registers should be set up for speed, accuracy, and ease of use. Reporting mechanisms should be easy to compile. Getting vital information should be done in an unobtrusive way.
The end result should be processes that are both employee and customer friendly to use. The better and more friendly the process, chances are the more satisfied the customer. An excellent example is Les Schwab. They have designed a service system that focuses on the customer and makes it easy to buy and use their products as well as receive service.
If done properly the trio of strategy, people, and systems comes together with the product you’re selling to create a satisfied customer.
Tim Hill teaches a course on Customer Service Management, if you are interested you may call him at 383-7713.