It helps to think of your relationship with your customers like a binding contract. Although no contract exists, your customers have expectations that you must fulfill. Think of it like a marriage, if your spouse does not show you they still love you, will you stick around? Again, thinking of the relationship with your customer like a garden that needs tending to grow into mature plant life.
There are three main reasons why customer relationships fail:
Reason 1: Inflicting one too many minor wounds
A customer often will end their relationship with a company due to many small errors over time. It's not the final straw that broke the camel's back; it was each and every one of them stacked on top of each other.
Reason 2: Failing to acknowledge and take responsibility for mistakes
We all mess up sometimes. Those who own up to their mistakes succeed, those who don't, well, just don't. It's basic manners right?
Reason 3: Failing to communicate when things go bad
Speaking of manners, communication is a big part of it. Problems don't improve by ignoring them. Communicate with your customers in a timely fashion when things go wrong.
Avoid Behaviors That Send Customers Running
The minor mistakes that lead to a customer loss are the result of bad behaviors. We've narrowed it down to five categories:
There is no excuse for rudeness, ever. You pay your staff, they can be rude on their own time, or for your competitors.
Having negative phone manners
When customers call, they expect someone to pick up. If they have to leave a message, they expect you to call them back. It's not about your schedule and tasks order, it's about their expectations. Here are a few tips:
- Answer calls quickly—We know, you’re human, use technology to assist you in answering the phone.
- Test your own interactive voice response system—When you do use technology, perform a usability test on your system and see how easy it is to navigate and how friendly it is.
- Return calls—Make it easy for your customers to leave messages. Your message should give them a concrete window of time to expect a call back, and then call them back within that window of time.
Ignoring complaints and inquiries
Customers hate being ignored. They know you are a person. They know you hire people. The human interaction of understanding is one of the greatest things you can do to extend your customers graciousness that will keep them returning to you for business.
Failing to listen
Already stated: they know you are human, this means they know you can listen, too. Don't pretend you can't, they're not stupid. To show that you're listening, ask questions. Don't think that an occasional survey will cover the bases though. It will only make your ignored customers more angry.
One-stop customer service works wonders. Please don't shuffle your customers to different people and departments to assist them with an issue. You contact the departments, get the answer and be the liaison, allowing your customer to feel important.
Why Ask Why?
The best way to diagnose a customer service problem is to continually ask why—at least five times with your best people in a meeting. The answer to every question gets another question until the root problem is found.
A Quick Example for Diagnosing Customer Service Problems with the Five Whys
- Why are the customers angry? Because they are overcharged for this book.
- Why are they overcharged for the book? Because the price form is incorrect.
- Why is the price form incorrect? Because it is last year's form with last year's pricing.
- Why are we using last year's form with last year's pricing? Because the new forms were not ordered.
- Why were the new forms not ordered? The old manager left before it was time to order them and the new manager came after they should have been ordered.
Asking these questions in a series gets to the root of the problem. Keep digging until you get there. You can later confess the error to your customers and ensure it won't happen again.