“Excellence is an art won by training and habituation.  We are what we repeatedly do.  Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”  Aristotle

Why focus on Customer Service?

Customer service in America has declined dramatically in the past few years.  Providing good customer service to your clients will result in word-of-mouth recommendations – the best kind of referral.  A “very satisfied” customer is almost six times more likely to be loyal and to repurchase and/or to recommend your product than a customer who is “just satisfied” is.1 When customers have a choice, they will choose the professional who provides the highest caliber of customer service.  Customer service is so important that the Malcomb Baldridge Award requires that “Customer service requirements are understood and acted upon and that standards for quality be made explicit and visible throughout an organization especially for those employees who regularly have customer contact i.e., the front line”. 

It is of paramount importance to understand the expectations and requirements of our customers.  Sometimes this means we may need to change processes and provide training or enhance the infrastructure as well as develop service standards to respond to our customer’s needs.

The Technical Assistance Research Program (TARP) found that it costs from four to seven times more to attract a new customer than to retain an existing one. 

Ø      It has been determined that 81percent of customers with minor unresolved complaints ($5 or less) will not buy again.

Ø      More than 54 percent of customers with major (over $100) unresolved complaints will not buy again.

Ø      While only a small percentage of your unhappy clients bother to tell you about their dissatisfaction, the are eager to tell lots of your potential customers of the problems they had dealing with you.

Ø      Each dissatisfied customer will tell nine to ten people about his/her negative experience.

Ø      Handling complaints effectively can build customer loyalty.  Research shows that when complaints are resolved quickly, up to 95 percent of customers will return and buy again.  

Companies can boost profits by almost 100% by retaining just 5% more of their customers.   Also, companies with long-term customers can often charge more for their products and services.2

According to Jim Clemmer’s Firing on all Cylinders, developing a strong commitment to service/quality improvement requires two steps:

Ø      The first critical step is getting the senior management team/partners to agree wholeheartedly that service/quality improvement is the strategic issue for the company.  Team members must be prepared to devote substantial resources and personal time to get this process started.

Ø      The second step is to build this commitment within the rest of the organization.

Flawless Service Delivery includes understanding client’s perceptions and creating every opportunity to make a positive impression.  Enabling your employees/staff to “use their own best judgement” to resolve issues.  Impart a “whatever it takes” attitude to all associates and rewarding high-quality service.

“Listening to customers must become everyone’s business.  With competitors moving ever faster, the race will go to those to listen (and respond) most intently.”3 “At the heart of any successful strategy to manage satisfaction is the ability to listen to the customer.”4

Customer Feedback Calls

Customer Feedback calls are an elegant and simple method to learn what is on the forefront of the customer’s mind.  Customer Feedback calls enable you to select a moment-of-truth, listen to the voice of the customer on a particular moment and then make process changes, provide training or augment technology to respond to your customer’s requests.  Customer Feedback calls will be used periodically to check on the progress and to provide a measurable return on your investment.  After the initial three-month launch, your organization is left with the skills required to continue on other moments or truth. 

CFC Project Overview

The purpose of this project is to create an awareness of your staff to provide a high-level of customer service.  They will be equipped with the tools required to continue pleasing your customer long after this project is completed.  Every moment of truth – every opportunity your client has to form an impression -- will be evaluated.   Documents will be reviewed and revised if necessary, or created if they do not exist.  Metrics to evaluate your customer service performance will be developed so on a regular basis, you and your staff understand your client’s perceptions.  Phase three entails on-going observation, adjusting processes and continuing to obtain customer feedback for various moments of truth. 

Using these methods, you and your staff will continually improve their level of customer service.  This will most assuredly increase your client base, referrals and repeat business.

1 Reichheld, Harvard Business Review, “Loyalty-Based Management”, March-April 1993.

2 Reichheld & Sausser, Harvard Business Review, “Zero Defections: Quality Comes to Services”, September-October 1990.

3 Peters, Tom; Thriving on Chaos, 1987

4 Jones and Sasser, Harvard Business Review, November-December 1995

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