What Can Leaders Do About Customer Retention?

Posted: 22/08/2014




    By Brett Lyons

It is staggering to discover how many organisations fail to follow through on one of the main principles in winning new customers and keeping existing ones: offering excellent customer service.

UK Customer Satisfaction has fallen for the second year in a row, according to the UK Customer Satisfaction Index (UKCSI). However, what’s more astounding is a second research finding: only ten organisations in the top fifty (including Amazon and John Lewis) have improved on their performance since July 2013.

Customer service is not solely the responsibility of a designated “customer service desk”. It’s the responsibility of company leaders to define what good customer service means, and then relate this to all people within a business – from web developers to financial executives – to carry out.

The role of the leader

A customer service strategy is integral to a good leadership strategy, and there must be real support for people at all times in these five key areas:

  • Definition and Execution of Customer Service
  • Exceeding Customer Expectations
  • Customer Service Skills
  • Complaint Handling Techniques
  • Service Recovery

Are your people supported enough to support your customers? What does customer service mean to your company? Are all your representatives on the same level of understanding? Is there untapped potential to improve customer retention, improve the sales proposition and create a reputation that ultimately will attract new business?

What is good customer service?

We are all customers at some point in our lives, and businesses who supply others with products and services must not lose sight of the customer perspective. When organisations actively look for new suppliers, one of the main considerations will be the quality of customer service. Turn the tables around: consider the times that the same problems have been experienced repeatedly, but regardless of how much or how often you mention them, they are never resolved.

Your impression of a company who appears unable to resolve problems and deliver good service is likely to be negative, and is likely to make you think their leadership strategy is poor and that they do not value customer opinions.

Take note of customer complaints and act on them regularly. If all the small changes are made on a frequent basis, big problems will cease to exist.

In general, however, there are two factors underlining good customer service:

  1. Each customer contact is a positive experience.
  2. Your company’s sales people must be 100% confident that what they sell to the customer will be delivered.

Organisations only get to the top of their game by having a commitment to continuous improvement. If you’ve let things slip – which happens easily during growth or with changes of people in teams – there will be much more work to do to improve processes and the way you deal with your customers.

Rectifying bad experiences

Companies often recognise the significance of customer service from a strategic standpoint.  Media marketing messages are always claiming to put the customer first, but all too often the promise is not fulfilled and customers face long waiting times on the phone, have important questions unanswered or have a problem with a product/ service that takes ages to get fixed.

Think about this. Each time your customer has a bad experience, you have failed them. Every time a customer and a business are in contact there are opportunities that should be capitalised on such as:

  • Pleasing the customer and even exceeding their expectations
  • The potential to increase sales and profits
  • Motivating the company’s workforce through productivity and positive feedback leading to a feeling of ‘a job well done’
  • Turning poor service around into a winner.

Using all channels, all the time

Consider your own company and how much contact there is between your people and existing and potential customers through the internet, email, telephone, social media and, of course, face-to-face meetings. Through each of these channels there is an opportunity waiting to be seized.

Imagine the impact if one in ten customers bought an additional product from your company, or referred your business to a colleague, because they were so pleased with the experience of dealing with your people. What difference would that make to your company?

Customer service should have four main objectives:

  • Customer Delight
  • Customer Loyalty
  • Incremental Business
  • New Business

No company ever sets out to fail their customers, but short-sighted and untrained customer service means that they do: people representing the business just don’t understand what is expected of them, and don’t understand how to handle customers when things go wrong.  If you struggle with customer retention or haven’t rolled out a company-wide customer service strategy, it’s something to start thinking about.

As Steve Jobs said: 

“Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.”

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