Are You Loyal To Your Customers? How to Create Loyalty by Using Your ABCs
Updated March 19, 2014
Examples abound of companies that forget WHY they exist and WHO keeps them in business. To adapt political strategist James Carville’s pithy pronouncement during Bill Clinton’s run-off against George Bush in 1992 (“It’s the economy, stupid!”), may I proclaim:
“It’s the customer, stupid!”
This is not rocket science, folks. I cut my teeth on customer service over 35 years ago when I began my first career in consumer lending, a highly competitive industry. I worked for a finance company for a couple of years, doing both bringing in new customers and collections at tardy customers’ homes. It sure built character (as a former co-worker used to say), but I’ve never regretted that work. Why? Because it taught me how to treat people with respect, to listen to them and to try to find solutions, even when it involved their defaulting on repaying their loans and mortgages.
I’ve talked about various aspects of customer service in previous posts:
Why Cranky Employees Undermine Customer Service: The Call for Executive Leadership
A Burger to Die For: Self-Empowerment to Make a Difference in Customer Service
How Committed Are You to Customer Service? Meet Matt Fusco of The Rugged Mill
Do You Hold Your Customers in Contempt? Or Do You TRULY Value Them?
My focus in this updated post is on managing and nurturing your existing customer or client base. What I continue to find astonishing is how many companies direct disproportionate efforts to attracting new customers through promotional gimmicks, only to see a steady turnover as the consequence. I’ll use telecommunications as an example.
I’m what’s called a fully bundled customer with my telecom provider: Internet, cable TV, landline phone, long distance and a wireless smart phone.
I have a love-hate relationship with this provider-Rogers Communications, one of the three major telecom companies in Canada.
I’ve debated in the past about severing the umbilical cord and parsing out my services to several providers. Getting a bundled discount is nice, but having all my services with only one company has its drawbacks.
What began to really bug me a few years ago was watching all the fantastic promos my telecom company was doling out to attract new customers: free PVRs, free phones, big discounts, free cable channels, etc. When I spoke to company reps on occasion about my services and whether I could get a piece of the action, I was politely and firmly told no. These deals were for NEW customers, most of whom would never be bundled up the wazoo like me.
Resentment began to set in.
Sometimes a little steam emerged from my ears when I had trouble with my telecom services.
Something wasn’t right here.
Whether it was a bolt of lightning at corporate headquarters which prompted a change in attitude, or something in the corporate Kool-Aid, I noticed some improvements in how I was treated when speaking one of Rogers’ anonymous call center employees. For example, rather than nickel and diming me on providing me with two free high-def PVRs on yearly renewal, it became a non-issue.
However, of late I’ve noticed a change in attitude by Rogers’ employees, in particular those working in customer retention. The attitude now seems to be, take it or leave it.
Is that a good strategy?
We’ll find out this July when some of my services renew. What many service providers forget is that the loyal, longstanding customer often gets taken out with the garbage. Newbies are still getting the attention. Then they switch when another “better” deal comes along or if they get pissed off.
One critically key factor is the CONSISTENCY with which a company provides high quality services to its customers. And when a mistake occurs (we’re humans, right?), the customer relationship can actually be deepened IF it’s dealt with very quickly and to the customer’s total satisfaction.
So folks, that’s just one little story of customer service to underscore my message. If you’re a service or product provider, here are my ABCs to help you not just maintain your customer base but to actually expand it. It’s not rocket science, as I said earlier.
A – ASK the right questions and keep asking questions during your customer relationship. Never assume anything about your customers.
B – BEND over backwards to serve your customers in the best possible way. Exceed their expectations every time. Under-promise, over-deliver.
C – CEMENT the relationship through continuous innovation and outperforming your competitors…consistently!
There are no traffic jams along the extra mile.
– Roger Staubach
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