Keep Your Customers with Good Service

January 1, 2011
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Two years ago, I pulled the plug on one of my telecom providers. Having no other options, I did business with them for 5 years, and hated every minute of every one of our interactions.

Two years ago, a tree trimming company did a poor job pruning my ornamental pear tree, and now it is diseased and suffering. Needless to say, I did not call them back this year, when my tree needed additional care.

Last year, I needed a new server and an upgraded network. The IT company I’d used for 2 years failed to serve me. They told me that my company was “different” from those of their other customers, and made me feel unimportant. I later found out that this IT company loses 25% of their customers every year. I decided to find a new IT company, the owner of which took the time to understand what I was looking for, and built a system to fit my needs. 25 years later, this IT company still retains most of its original customers, which, in the IT world, is almost unheard of.

My wife and I frequent a local restaurant, one of our favorites. The restaurant opened only 5 years ago, and it has survived the recession. How did the owner do it? He keeps a simple and tasty menu, with generous portions for a reasonable cost. He greets every customer by name, and remembers their favorite dishes. He delivers, and he will sell any ingredient for take-home.

These stories share a common theme: Businesses that took care of their customers earned their loyalty, while those who abused their customers drove them away.

My favorite book on customer service is Ari Weinzweig’s Zingerman’s Guide to Giving Great Service: Treating Your Customers Like Royalty.. Buried deep in the book is this observation:

“Customers who receive a high-quality product but poor service are unlikely to give a shop a second shot. They simply spend their money somewhere else the next time. By contrast, surprisingly high numbers of clients who’ve gotten great service but received substandard product will return to give the business another opportunity to take care of them.”

And it’s just that is simple. People want to know they will be taken care of.

Customers don’t expect perfection, but they do want to be treated right when something does go wrong. The moment of failure is a company’s golden opportunity to earn the customer’s trust. When a customer calls you for help, how will you perform?

It all comes down to this: Do you care about your customer? If your answer is ‘yes,’ you do everything you can to earn their trust.

The bottom line: Good service is what keeps customers coming back.

If the equation is so simple, why don’t more companies follow it? Ari lists some possible reasons:

  1. It’s unfamiliar
  2. It’s not respected
  3. It requires more work in the moment
  4. It’s hard to get John Wayne out of the way
  5. It’s not fair
  6. There’s plenty of good talk, but also bad walk
  7. Reward systems don’t reinforce it
  8. It’s not defined

Because they lack clarity of purpose and a robust training system, a large number of companies lose customers daily. A specific organizational attitude is needed to retain customers. The bigger the organization, the more difficult it is to sustain a consistently outstanding customer service attitude. Do your employees have the right attitude? To proliferate and perpetuate the attitude, each employee must be taught and encouraged to serve the customer.

Retaining customers requires a customer service attitude. Does your company have the right attitude? Each interaction with the customer is an opportunity to please or annoy them. Please them, and you will keep them.

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