Most businesses spend more time and energy trying to find new customers instead of retaining those they have. The logic behind customer retention is simple: It costs far less money to keep customers happy than you will spend on recruiting new ones. Loyal customers tell their friends about your business and will spend more money than new customers.
All stores like to think their service is great. In reality, many stores fall far short. It is not just about meeting your customer’s expectations — by striving to consistently exceed their expectations you will build customer loyalty. It is relatively inexpensive to train your employees to provide superior customer service and develop a culture of service that your business is known for.
Greg Smith, president of Chart Your Course International and author of “401 Proven Ways to Retain Your Best Employees” suggests the following seven steps to build customer loyalty for your business:
-Select the right people. In the book, “From Good to Great,” Jim Collins said, “People are not your most important asset, the RIGHT people are.” Most businesses do a poor job of hiring people. They hire just anyone and place them on the front-line with customers. Spend more time recruiting and hiring the right people with good personalities. Focus on those who are friendly and demonstrate an interest and enthusiasm for the job. Consider using personality profiles as part of the hiring process. These profiles help identify true personality characteristics of your applicants.
- Sensationalize the experience for your customers. Good service is not good enough. A Gallup survey showed a customer who is “emotionally connected” to your place of business is likely to spend 46 percent more money than a customer who is merely “satisfied” but not emotionally bonded.
- Set performance standards. Outline the behaviors of how employees should act, speak, and respond to customer needs and requests. Consider a list of customer service commandments that outline actions you want your service people to demonstrate.
-Sustain on-going training and reinforcement. Good customer service skills are not natural for most people. Effective customer service training must be reinforced and taught on a recurring basis. For example, the Ritz-Carlton hotels provide a thorough customer service training program for all of its employees during their orientation. Then each supervisor conducts a daily “line-up” to review one of the commandments with his employees ten minutes before each shift.
- Specify incentives for good behavior. Yes, employees want to be paid well, but they also want to be treated with respect and shown appreciation. The front-line supervisor has the greatest impact on motivating and retaining employees. Reward those who exceed the standards and provide development for those who do not.
- Survey your customers and reduce your defection rate. On average, businesses lose 15-20 percent of their customers each year to their competition. All businesses encounter this defection rate, but few do much about it. To improve retention, one business sends out a customer service report card to its top customers every month. This requires an evaluation based on four specific criteria. They tally the results and make sure employees see the scores. This motivates the employees to do a better job.
- Seek customer complaints with enthusiasm. For every complaint there are at least 10 other customers that visited your business who have the same criticism. A portion of those 10 people just took their business to your competitor. Look at customer complaints as an opportunity for improvement.
Smith helps create high performance organizations that attract, keep, and motivate their workforce and exceed customer expectations. He speaks at conferences and conducts training programs and is also the author of eight books.
Leadership Coles County
The Spring Class of Leadership Coles County 2008 is currently under way. The purpose of the program is to identify and motivate emerging leaders from the community and to develop their potential for civic, social, and professional leadership.
An important component of leadership is service — service to others, to organizations serving the community and to the community as a whole. For that reason, a key component of the Leadership Coles County program is the mandatory team project that class participants work on outside of class time. Team projects are required of class members to encourage them to:
n Gain a full understanding of an issue affecting Coles County and/or an organization serving Coles County residents.
- Use their personal knowledge, talent, skills, and abilities to address the issue.
- Participate in a “hands-on” leadership experience.
We are still accepting ideas for team project proposals for the Spring Class from area organizations and businesses, community representatives, leaders, and Leadership Program Alumni. The project proposals should be relevant and integral to issues related to Coles County.
The timeline for completion of the projects is March 5 through April 30. The goal is to have short term projects with measurable outcomes and long term results. The criteria for the team projects are:
- Projects must be short term and completed over the course of the five sessions.
- Projects that have tangible or measurable results will be given first consideration.
- Project outcomes must be able to be marketed and publicized.
- Team members will present their idea, develop a plan of action and specify anticipated outcomes at the onset of the project.
- Team members will be given some time during class sessions to work on the project, but are also expected to spend additional time outside of sessions working on the project.
- Written and oral presentations about the team projects will be presented to the full class during the last session.
Team Project Proposals are now being accepted by the Charleston Area Chamber of Commerce. Proposals need to be submitted by Feb. 20 for review. Proposal forms are available from the Charleston Chamber office at 501 Jackson Avenue or by calling 345-7041.
Cindy Titus is executive director of the Charleston Area Chamber of Commerce.