So many companies do such a poor job of serving their customers, it really doesn’t take much effort to stand out from the crowd. When you find ways to serve your customers exceptionally well, on a regular and consistent basis, then you’ll find more of them staying with you.
This makes your marketing much more cost-effective.
I’ve heard it costs anywhere from $5 to $10 per person to get a new customer, for every $1 spent retaining an existing customer. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I’d much rather spend $1 keeping a customer than $5 or $10 replacing them.
The good news is there are specific things you can do to improve your service so it’s consistently outstanding. One of them is what I call the first "E" of customer service: EXCEED.
Exceed means to go beyond what your customers expect.
But to do this you first need to know what they expect. So, you ask them. And you keep asking them in different ways. Ask current customers what they expect from businesses like yours, in general. Ask them what they expect from your business in particular. Ask former customers. Ask potential customers.
A lot of companies do surveys to acquire this kind of information. Personally, I don’t like surveys. People don’t answer surveys accurately. And I think they’re too impersonal, too formal.
It’s better to establish good relationships with your customers so your employees will feel comfortable asking for feedback directly. And, your customers will be more willing to offer feedback.
When you do ask for input (from anyone) you need to make sure the process respects their time, their privacy and their comfort. Make it safe for them to be honest.
I’ve had customer service people ask me to rate how they served me. I’m not always comfortable telling someone they didn’t do such a good job. And I know a lot of people are the same way. It can be uncomfortable.
One way to do this is to make sure when you ask for feedback, your questions do not require direct feedback on service they have received.
But, sometimes this is exactly what you want. So, if you want direct feedback, ask your questions like this:
"What did you like best about…?"
"Next time, what might you do differently?"
Another way is to encourage people to fill in website forms or comment cards. These make it easy and they can be anonymous.
You tend to get better information when you ask open questions. Too many surveys have questions that require a specific response. This might be fine if the survey is created by professionals as part of an entire feedback system. But, for those of us without advanced degrees in psychology and statistics, it’s better if we keep the questions open and simple.
Another way to exceed what your customers expect is to shop your competition. Get a feel for what the standards are in your business. Whatever most competing businesses offer is probably close to what your customers will expect.
Once you have an idea of what your customers expect, then find ways to do more.
Here’s an example:
I’ve been to 5 or 6 chiropractors over the years. I have a pretty good idea of what the typical service is that a chiropractor provides. Or I did until I met my current chiropractor. He was the first one who took x-rays of my spine. I remember this because when he showed me the x rays he also said, "and Kevin you might be interested to know, you have an extra vertebrae in your neck." I had no idea!
Every other chiropractor I’ve been to does the adjustment (cracks my back) and then I’m out of there. It usually takes about 5-10 minutes.
My chiropractor takes at least 30 minutes. We take time to chat. And while we talk he massages and kneads my back muscles, gets them loose. Only after working my back over pretty well does he then do the adjustment. And he has given me exercises and other information to help keep me in good shape and out of pain.
He’s gone way beyond every other chiropractor I’ve seen. And it works. So I keep seeing him. And I refer other people to him.
Going beyond your customer’s expectations needs to be an everyday thing. It’s not something you do once in a while, when you feel like it. It needs to be a natural and normal part of what you do. And it should be across the board. All your customers should get the same treatment.
Last year I wrote about a service station where the owner and employees helped me out of a tough situation when my car battery died. They went above and beyond what I expected. But what really impressed me was that they did it naturally, like it was an everyday thing for them. Probably because it was an everyday thing for them. They had the attitude that they were there to help their customers however they could. So they did.
When you build this attitude into your organization, you can’t lose. If you’re constantly focused on what your customer expects and then you go beyond that, every time, you will create customers for life. And they will tell others about you and your business. I guarantee it!