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Who Is Keeping Your Customers Happy?
It doesn’t matter whether you are in the hospitality business, retail, or a service provider, to stay in business you have to keep your customers happy. After all, happy customers are the best source of repeat business (after all, each repeat sale costs less than finding a new customer), and of referrals that bring in new customers through word of mouth. To keep your customers happy, though, it’s important to understand who your customers are – you might be surprised! – and to understand which of your employees can affect your customers’ happiness. Let’s take a look at both.
Who Are Your Customers?
Some of your customers are more obvious than others. It’s easy to understand who your customers are if you are operating a retail sales outlet, a restaurant, or similar operation where the buying decision is typically made by one individual. However, if your company provides goods or services to other companies, then the picture gets a bit more complicated.
Let’s look at selling to another company as an example of a more complex customer relationship. In this case, who makes the buying decision? Who receives the good or service (if that person is different from the buyer)? Who uses the good or service? Who can say no to the buying decision but may have no other input or involvement in the process? If the answers to these questions point to more than one person, then you have not one but several customers, and you need to figure out what will keep each one of those customers happy. Complex or simple, the essential point is that you need to think very hard, first of all, about who all of your customers are, and then about what makes them happy with your service or product.
Who Interacts With Your Customers?
Once you have identified who your customers are, whether there’s only one customer per sale or many people in a client company, begin to think about who is interacting with these customers. Here’s an example from the restaurant world: when I visit a restaurant, I know that I will interact with the server and also with the greeter who seats me. I seldom interact directly with the person who is bussing tables, but I may do so, especially if I can’t find a server. When I do so, that busboy or busgirl becomes a salesperson for the restaurant. Another example: when I call a company to check on the status of supplies I have ordered, the person who answers the phone becomes part of the sales force for that company. I’ll get an impression about the company and its efficiency and helpfulness from as small a thing as how pleasantly the phone is answered.
Here’s the bottom line: everyone from your company who interacts, or potentially interacts, with your customers represents you and your company to your customers and potential customers. That means that those complex sales relationships present multiple opportunities to affect customer satisfaction and goodwill.
Another Layer Of Opportunity
Complex customer relationships can be seen as multiple opportunities to satisfy more people who can grow your company. The more points of contact that your customers have with your company (that is, with different people in your company), the more opportunities you have for keeping your customers happy. That’s because each person in your company who has contact with your customers is a potential goodwill ambassador for you.
A Formula For Determining An Employee’s Effect On Customer Happiness
We attended a seminar on providing outstanding customer service and I was excited to bring back an interesting idea: They provided a formula for what it is worth to my company to make sure that every single person who works for me provides excellent customer service. The formula is: $ x N = $$$ where:
$ (The dollar amount the average customer spends)
x (multiplied by)
N (the number of your employees who have contact with the customer)
= $$$ (the dollar amount of business that results from your employees’ contact with customers)
Most of the time this dollar amount is difficult to connect directly to a given employee but the connection exists nonetheless. I remember, when our children were small, going to a restaurant in Dallas where, in a scenario familiar to all parents of young children, our youngest had one of those crying fits that is part being hungry and part just not particularly happy at that moment. The waitress instantly soothed and distracted her with crayons and attention, all the while taking our order and providing excellent service throughout the meal. We ate at that restaurant about once a week for years (do the math), and all because of that one server.
Another way to evaluate the long-term impact of how your employees affect customers’ happiness is based on the assumption that a happy customer will usually tell at least three potential customers. That kind of word of mouth advertising is free and can create a domino effect that has a very nice effect on your bottom line.
The Path To Creating Customer Happiness
The points of contact in your company who have the first interaction, or who have the potential to have direct interaction, with your customers are among the most important people in your company with respect to keeping your customers happy. And who are these people? They are the people who answer the phone, greet your customers and refer them on to specialists within your company, take orders or handle complaints, and answer customers’ questions. The better prepared they are for those interactions with customers, and the more tools they have to keep your customers happy, the more likely they are to do just that.
The answer to the problem of how to prepare your employees to keep your customers happy is TRAINING. Once you have identified the ways in which each of your employees will, or might, interact with customers, be sure that they are properly trained in customer care. You can’t get too basic about this step: for example, train everyone who answers the phone to speak distinctly and cheerfully, to ask before putting someone on hold, to explain what will happen if the caller must be referred to someone else.
Who Is Keeping Your Customers Happy?
Answer: Everyone in your company who has contact with your customers!
And How Do They Do That?
Answer: Thoughtful and thorough training!
Thoughtful and thorough training gives your employees information and tools, and spells out the standards you want them to meet when they interact with your customers. This leads to happier customers, whose questions get answered and whose problems get solved, as well as to happier employees, who feel rewarded and productive when they take good care of your customers.