In an increasingly competitive business market, customer service can be the make or break factor for your business, providing you with an edge over competitors. But in spite of this, few small businesses have a strategy for dealing with customers. Without any guiding principles about how to treat customers, these businesses effectively leave one of the most critical elements of their business to chance.
As Wayde Kennedy, co-founder of customer experience-based auditing company, Phantom Group, points out: “Most businesses exist with the express purpose of making money, and their primary revenue source is most often their direct customer. It is essential to employ a comprehensive customer strategy to increase customer retention and decrease customer attrition. Increasing retention and decreasing attrition is a substantially cheaper and more effective way of improving bottom line profits than attempting to acquire new customers.”
Know Your Customer
So where to begin? Kennedy advises: “Start off with a clear understanding of what your core business is, and who your core customers are. Without a clear understanding of why the business exists, and who it exists to serve, it will never be possible to develop and implement a successful customer strategy.” In light of this, your customer strategy needs to be tailor-made for your specific business and target markets – there’s no such thing as a ‘one size fits all’.
Create a Unified Experience
Secondly, he points out that many businesses make the mistake of not ensuring synergy across all contact points, leaving the customer with a watered down and often conflicting experience of your business. “The customer must receive one unified message and the highest level of service regardless of who he deals with,” he explains, touching on another important area. A strategy is useless if it is not carried out at every level in the business. “Many businesses make the mistake of paying insufficient attention to key areas such as receptionists, secretaries and other staff who are closer to the initial contact point with the customer,” says Kennedy. Frontline staff are essential in creating the right environment in which business can take place, and for setting the precedent for good customer service. It’s as important for the company driver to understand the principles and expectations laid out in your customer strategy as it is for members of senior management.
Measure Your Success
Finally, Kennedy makes an important point about measurement. “One of the most important factors to remember is that any business initiative needs to be constantly monitored – if it can’t be tracked and recorded, it can’t be measured; and without constant measurement and analysis, it is impossible to determine whether the initiative has been successful or not, and where changes need to be made. Management through measurement is essential,” he says.