In 2013, start telling yourself that a New Year’s Resolution isn’t just for your personal life. In regards to your business, there are many things you can choose to “change” over the course of 2013, but nothing belongs at the top of this list more than your company’s culture. Most are mistaken thinking culture is something that is stationary, set at the founding of a company and then simply exists as is, forever and ever. But in reality, culture is evolutionary. It morphs over time to fit the changes in your business model, products, markets, size, employees, etc. You must be there to nurture your culture over time. You must be willing to devote yourself to focus on different elements every year, to constantly re-energize your employees and brands.
In 2013, challenge yourself to find a way to empower your employees. We recommend taking a route that will not only benefit them, but as well the reputation of your brand and your relationship with your customers. In fact, if you make customer service the ultimate priority for your company, not only will you greatly increase customer loyalty (and remember, it’s about 5x more expensive to acquire a new customer than to nurture a current one) but you will also motivate your employees. By following the advice of Don Gallegos, customer service enthusiast and author of “Win the Customer, Not the Argument”, here are 4 ways you can impress your customers, increase brand loyalty, improve performance and inspire employees.
Cultural Resolution: Why You Need a Customer-Centric Workplace
1. The Customer is Always Right - Many businesses take on the philosophy that the “customer is always right” but do they live, eat and breathe it? When they say always, do they mean always? Or most of the time? You see, it’s not really that the customer is always right. In fact, many times, they are usually wrong. What it’s about is letting the customer be right. It’s about giving them what they want or need, no matter what the policy says. Don Gallegos was president of the King Soopers Supermarket chain (part of the Kroger Co.) and practiced an interesting philosophy. His employees were to provide a refund for a customer when asked, even if the customer didn’t have a receipt and even if they didn’t sell the item at the store. If the customer asked, they received. Now, at first thought, you might be worried that King Soopers was being ripped off, but as Gallegos said, not as many people are out there to rip you off as you’d think. It’s really about focusing on customer retention. Gallegos figured that, for King Soopers, an average customer “was worth $5,000 a year to us. If that customer stays with us for 10 years, that’s $50,000. Would you want to lose a $50,000 customer over an $8 refund?” The amount of money you are making by retaining customers through this policy outweighs those who aim to cheat you. When you refund a customer, no questions asked, you impress them. For those that truly lost a receipt or are returning an item for an odd reason, this kind of hassle-free customer service is what makes a company stand out and gets customers talking. Not to mention, never forcing your employees to say no gives them freedom to avoid difficult customer situations and to feel that they can better handle sticky situations.
2. Facing Problems Head On - Sometimes your policy can really get in your employees and your customers’ way. If you have a line by line “code” your employees must follow, you paralyze their ability to intellectually navigate through difficult issues. That’s why, as Gallegos says, you should immediately insert into your employee handbook the following: “Every employee of our company has the authority to do things outside this policy manual when the situation dictates”. By giving employees this power, you allow them to sensitively handle whatever comes their way. If a customer has a crazy request, your employee can look into implementing it. Again, this increases your brand loyalty (as the customer receives above and beyond service) and takes the word “no” out of your employees’ vocabulary, allowing them to relax and trust their gut. It’s amazing what they will accomplish. They will do what they think is the best way to right a wrong, to handle an issue, allowing responses to be genuine and well thought-out.
3. Ask for Complaints - As Gallegos explains, when a customer is unhappy with your business, this customer can either complain to friends (or online), stop doing business with your company, or complain to you. Which of these is the best option? By setting up a way for customers to easily pass on grievances to you, and being sure to motivate them to do so, you open yourself up for an opportunity to consistently improve and to consistently increase loyalty. First, you should let customers know they are heard. You can’t implement every suggestion, but the acknowledgement that you took the time to listen to what they had to say can work wonders for the customer relationship. Most importantly, though, you set yourself and your team up to make needed changes. Employees grow restless when things are stagnant, but if you push them to ask for customer feedback and then make it routine to apply that feedback, you give them an opportunity to always be growing and learning, while in turn increasing your business’ productivity and improving customer happiness.
4. Your Employees are the Heroes - Simply put, reward your employees for good customer service. When you receive compliments from customers toward a specific employee, save it and acknowledge it in some way. You could create a contest for employees that receive the best customer feedback, or allow team members to vote on the best customer service story. Either way, let them know that this superstar work doesn’t go unnoticed. The customer is #1 and you want to take care of those employees who make them feel like they are #1. Create an environment for employees to feel appreciated, rewarded and not be distracted by cumbersome things. Happier employees will lead to happier customers. It’s as easy as that.
Customer service is failing us. We all know how many times we’ve been put on hold for nearly an hour, been spoken to rudely for no reason at all, or been denied a simple request that would have made our lives a whole lot easier. It’s beginning to be frustrating to do business almost anywhere. But when we have those experiences, those truly incredibly customer experiences, it really stands out. We do everything we can to keep going back to those places. So which would you rather be? A failing customer experience or a rewarding customer experience? The answer is simple, but it’s about making customer service something you’re entire organization feels a part of. They must feel responsible to make customers happy and do what it takes to make it happen. Implement this in your culture and you’ll find not only your customer loyalty to have increased, but your employee loyalty to have as well.