It is widely agreed that a high level of customer service contributes significantly to customer loyalty and results in return business. How often have you been affected by bad customer service at a local restaurant or petrol station and decided not to go there ever again because it appeared that the attendant didn’t care? Compare this with being served your meal very late but still being happy because you were looked after by the waiter very well, perhaps they were very polite, maybe they gave you a complimentary drink and offered a discount voucher for the next time you book. The difference in the two scenarios is the customer service expectation. The first scenario the attendant indicated to you that they didn’t care by just that… not caring, thus your expectation of customer service was low and you never complained, only promised yourself to never go there again. In the second scenario, the attendant at the restaurant created in you, the customer, a higher expectation of service because they cared, you expect to receive when you go again.
With this article, I intend to convince you, that just ‘good customer service’ is not good enough. Your customers will disappear as soon as your competitors offer a better service level than you. It is simply human nature to feel good when treated nicely; a customer will go where they are treated well. Most businesses offer good customer service however today good customer service is also simply not good enough. Everything else being equal, good customer service will help keep your business competitive, on the other hand, it will not get your competitors customers to come to you, nor will it assist greatly in increasing your customer base. So, as an SME owner/manager generally with limited a budget, a limited competitive advantage over your competition or maybe a not so ideal location, what do you do? I suggest you compete for your existing customers so as not to lose them and compete for a share of your competitions customers. You may be saying that this is not possible; your competition has a lower cost structure so they are cheaper, you may be concerned about the cost of staff training within your limited budget. I challenge you to create a line of defence to protect your customer base; you will also prepare, develop, test and bulletproof your firms abilities and capabilities. This will prepared you well when you are ready to entice and compete for your competitors’ customer or for that matter all new customers.
By now you are probably wondering or perhaps asking “how do I create a higher expectation of customer service?”
Its much easier than you think by following these key steps:
1: Identify your competitive advantage
This is any area of business where you are better than your competitor, identify your strengths and see where you are better than your competitor.
2: Identify what your competitors advantage is:
Is it price? Are you competitive around the pricing of your products and services? Do they have better delivery systems, delivery of service and product?, Identify your competitors advantage and remember price does not always dictate purchase decisions. It could be better opening hours, or a cast iron guarantee, maybe they handle returns or unhappy customers better.
3: Analyse the customer:
Blanchard and Bowels, the authors of ‘Raving Fans: a revolutionary approach to customer service’ suggests “trying to see customers as individuals and try to understand all their needs”. You should know your strengths and your competitors’ weaknesses. In analysing your customers, identify areas of concern for them and make every effort to exceed the service and delivery expectations of them. The key to this idea is creating a level of customer service in all areas of your business that far exceed the current level offered and be more competitive within your competitors’ weakness areas. Great customer service will contribute to new business coming to your door and sustain the existing customers need for continual recognition. Superior customer service will allow you to meet the market demand for your industries products and services irrespective completely of price or quality.
4: Communicate your ability to deliver:
To ensure that you compete for new customers you will need to communicate your ability to deliver Great Customer Service in a convincing way, which you should be able to do having tested it on your existing customer base. Now all that you need to do is communicate it to prospective customers through various marketing methods. Once they try your service and if it is the Great Service you created there will be excellent reason for them to try you and little reason for them to move on. Your ability to live up to the expectation you create in them from your marketing is needing to be kept up and you need to keep delivering to the standard you have improved upon and using it as a continuous improvement process.
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