By Stuart Hartley @anglestuart
It is widely known that it takes more effort and money to attract new customers than retaining existing ones. How do we therefore try and pre-empt any thoughts of your customers jumping ship?
The usual reason for existing customers to move elsewhere is a perceived barrier between expected service and received service. Either that or your competitors have simply aggressively under cut you.
- Managements misunderstanding of what the customer expects usually through lack of market research
- Inadequate resources
- Managers may understand customer expectations but be unwilling or unable to provide the resources to meet them
- Inadequate delivery
- Managers may understand customer expectations and supply the appropriate resources but fail to select, train and reward staff adequately resulting in poor or inconsistent performance
- Exaggerated promises
- Even when all 3 of the above are met there may still be a gap between customer expectations and perceptions and what is being delivered by making exaggerated promises.
So how do we ensure that we meet customer expectations – 10 top points to ensuring customer satisfaction?
- Access – is the service provided at convenient locations and times with little waiting?
- Reliability – is the service consistent and dependable?
- Credibility – can customers trust the service company and staff?
- Security – can the service be used without risk?
- Understanding the customer – does it appear that the service provider understands the customer expectations?
- Responsiveness – how quickly do service staff respond to customer problems, requests and questions?
- Courtesy – do service staff act in a friendly and polite manner?
- Competence – do service staff have the required skills and knowledge?
- Communication – is the service described clearly and accurately?
- Tangibles – how well managed is the tangible evidence of the service (e.g. staff dress, décor, layout etc)
Even with the levels of expected service matched with the levels of received service there is still a risk of losing customers. So how do we go the extra mile to ensuring they stay?
We can incentivise a long term relationship by providing financial offers or through social encounters. The aim here is to build loyalty either financially or socially.
- Internal marketing
The fundamental basis for customer retention is a high quality service delivery. Internal marketing through training, communicating and motivating internal staff will help to ensure high quality delivery
- Promise fulfilment
As mentioned above we need to ensure we keep our promises. Don’t then make unrealistic promises – you can save the business £1000’s if there is no guarantee; you can deliver a certain project within an unrealistic timescale just to ensure you get the work.
- Building trust
Regular two way communication will help to develop feelings of closeness and trust. It increases confidence in you as a business to your customer and decreases the customer’s perceived risk
- Service recovery
Plan for something to fail at some point and develop strategies to solve problems and restore customers trust should something fail. If you have staff ensure that these plans are communicated to them and ensure they know where their boundaries are to resolve issues, i.e. authorise refunds or subsequent discounts.