Ten point plan to treat customers like kings

Experts identify 10 rules to please customers. All of these boil down to one point: make them feel like they are the top priority.

1. Put customer service policy in writing

It doesn’t have to be elaborate but it needs to come from the business owner. It has to spell out to all employees what the rules are and how to engage customers. That includes everything from closing the sale to dealing with unhappy customers, perhaps even detailing when it is acceptable to give a discount.

2. Ensure staff are trained and satisfied

Staff discontent leads to bad customer service, so look after staff and reward them appropriately. Your sales team is always the frontline to make sure customers keep coming back.

3. Use staff to pick up information

Many firms rely on customer surveys but these don’t tend to deliver much information. Customers will just jot down anything, if at all. Employees are a
better source of information. Smarter companies put in time and resources picking up information from their staff about customer trends, what customers are asking and what’s driving customers crazy. Make sure frontline employees are picking up that information.

4. Link bonuses and pay to service

Firms rarely make customer satisfaction measures a core part of how employees get paid but many experts say they should. It’s a way of ensuring that superior customer service is front of mind.

5. Take care with the website

Your website is your shopfront to the world but lots of sites make it impossible for the customer to get in touch with a live person. That’s a mistake. Give the customer a choice of how to interact and get help. It could be by phone or email, but remember that phone conversations will leave a more lasting impression.

6. Be accessible

This is critical. Customers often want access to decision-makers, they don’t want to go through layers of management to get an answer. Having access to the managing director can be a plus, and lets the customer know that they are a priority. That can be a challenge with time constraints so it’s one that has to be managed.

7. Choose sales staff carefully

Good salespeople are a breed apart. Studies show that top sales professionals have some common features you need to look out for. The best salespeople are highly conscientious, achievement-oriented and hunger for knowledge. They don’t get overly friendly with customers, aren’t easily discouraged and seem to lack any self-consciousness, so aren’t shy about cold-calling new prospects. These studies show that their personalities will determine their success, and how much money they will make you.

8. Make it difficult to leave

Client loyalty is difficult to get and high levels of service will not necessarily guarantee it, especially if rivals offer the same service cheaper. One way of keeping them would be to raise their switching costs, or introduce loyalty incentives, such as discounts for long-term contracts and free service offerings.

9. Keep it personal

In this day and age, voicemail and email make communication easy but it is always better to have a personal touch with special customers. That means organising times to get together.

10. Deal with unsatisfied clients carefully

Experts say that means never arguing, taking responsibility for the problem, not making excuses, immediately taking action to fix the situation and empowering your frontline employees to be flexible in resolving complaints. That means giving them some leeway in deciding when to bend the rules. Either that or ensuring you or another manager are there to handle the situation.

Leon Gettler is a senior business journalist who writes for a range of leading newspapers and journals

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