One Thing That Will Turn Customers Into Advocates And Build Long Term Loyalty

by Kevin Cahalane - Date: 2007-01-20 - Word Count: 888 Share This!

Let's be perfectly honest - there is an awful lot of hype and hoopla being delivered about customer service. There are a large number of guru's about, chanting easy to assimilate mantra's ('love your customer to death' is a personal favourite of mine. What good could possibly be attained by taking this phrase literally?), beating the 'exceeding expectations' drum in a rhythmic, hypnotic way and pitching their customer loyalty programs at us from every angle.

What is the foundation of every customer service or customer loyalty program? What is it that will induce your customers to become your advocates? What really wins customers for life?

The answer, although obvious, is often overlooked in our high tech world. The answer is - YOUR PEOPLE.

Your people are your greatest resources for achieving customer delight, customer retention, customer advocacy and customer satisfaction. Conversely your people can be the major causes of relationship breakdowns, lost business, disharmony and lack of trust on the part of customers (current and ex).

Your organization can spend millions marketing, advertising and promoting your 'user friendly' image, pictures of your smiling staff displaying a caring, 'can do' attitude and your company's commitment to service excellence. All of this can be destroyed by one selfish individual who, in an act of sabotage, decides to wreak havoc on their customer, their team and their employer.

What can be done to prevent these acts of senseless stupidity which wreck relationships and drive organizations to the wall? In many instances - nothing. People behave for their own reasons, strange as that sometimes seems, not ours. However, when wanton acts of relationship destruction become the norm or even small number of occurrences are threatening to become an epidemic, it is time to start responding to the situation. NOW.

In over 27 years of work within organizations, large and small, I have noticed a number of underlying principles which set excellent companies apart from the rest. Defining the term 'excellent' is also challenging for, in my mind, it has no relation to the most profitable or to the largest organisations.

Let's look at how you can create EXCELLENT customer service.

Read, analyze and RESPOND to surveys - from other internal customers as well as your own people. Don't be afraid to make the difficult decisions, including taking a cold, hard look at your management style and that of other team leaders/supervisors within your call/contact/customer service centre.

Communicate to your people that your organisation is the paymaster - the external customer actually pays their salary - thanks to Henry Ford for this little gem.

People who know what they are doing, why their job is important and where they are heading (team wise and career wise) are usually a lot more switched on and self motivated than people who consider themselves to be 'mushrooms'. The answer is feedback, and it is every employees' right, in every organization, to be given feedback.

Constant, positive reinforcement allows people to re-focus their attitudes in a more dynamic way, to change their behavior to a more desirable style and to become a more productive team member. Reinforcement of desired behavior (and striving to change undesirable behavior) is one of the best ways to promote better customer service. It is also one of the least used management tools.

People need to understand and accept that there is no difference between internal and external customer service. Everyone in an organization is serving someone else. If they are not, what exactly are they doing there?

Little things count. Volunteering time to help an overworked colleague, answering another's telephone, arriving at work a little earlier, staying a little later. Reward these little things and they will become habits. Your customers will benefit from these habits!

Is the term 'ownership' a reality in your organization or just another buzz word? Can your people solve problems and make on-the-spot decisions relating to a customer's needs? Are they encouraged to take the initiative when dealing with other departments? Or, is your organisation totally rigid, inflexible and a slave to paperwork and forms?

Is teamwork and team building encouraged within your company or do you play departmental mind games? Is support and recognition the norm or is rudeness and isolation more in vogue within departments? Is there a company wide information flow or inter-departmental blocks?

Finally, every internal survey I have ever observed has (a) lack of leadership and (b) lack of communication very high up on the negative side of the list while 'I'm currently doing a wonderful job' is usually very high on the positive side. Somewhere, there is a balance but the reality is most people think they are doing OK from a service perspective, managers included. Sorry, that's not good enough.

Your service to your customers is not great because you think it is, it is great because your customers say it is.

If people in organisations, large and small, were more tolerant, understanding, friendly, supportive, appreciative, respectful, encouraging and co-operative, there would be a lot more positive (and profitable) focus on the needs of customers.

If training and development programs were to reflect the above issues it would lead to record results in terms of productivity and profitability.

If managers made the above issues part of their organisation's culture and if they worked together to make their departments more open and their people were encouraged to communicate freely just imagine all the benefits this will bring.

One final thing, encourage an atmosphere of fun. It works!

Related Tags: teams, service, customer, people, retention, ownership, advocacy

Kevin Cahalane, Sales & Service Momentum, is an international speaker, sales/customer service training professional and business strategy specialist. He is the publisher of popular e.zine 'SaSeMo' - read by thousands of sales, service, marketing and training managers around the world.

Visit Kevin's website today, subscribe to his free e.zine and receive the complimentary report: How to Continue Building Your Business - Even When Times Get Tough.

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