A strong word, hate. Whilst it may seem extreme, there are customers out there quietly stewing, their loyalty being chipped away by poor service at each interaction. Whilst they may not move to a competitor instantly, there could be other signs which – whilst not obvious to begin with – point to them well and truly falling out of love with you. Are they taking a long time to pay invoices? Perhaps a reaction to feeling aggrieved. Have they gone quiet, or simply aren’t asking for as much? They could be cheating behind your back already.
If your customers really do hate your business, it’s probably already too late. However, for those scratching their head over improving retention figures, or maximising profit from each and every client, then the points below serve as a timely reminder on how not to treat them!
1. You’re not empathetic
In most sectors, if you don’t have a website, you’re not doing much business! Even if you’re not selling directly from your website, it’s an opportunity to reassure potential customers that you are an established, trustworthy business. For a smaller business, it’s the easiest way of giving a big company feel too.
Perhaps an indictment of the internet is people are less patient than ever. Forrester Research noted that “47% of consumers expect a page to load in less than 2 seconds.” By today’s standards, even two seconds is too long. “Two hundred fifty milliseconds, either slower or faster, is close to the magic number now for competitive advantage on the web,” said Microsoft computer scientist Harry Shum.
So if your website loads slowly, displays incorrectly in certain browsers, or makes it difficult for people to get hold of you, consider your opportunity lost. It’s also important to remember that people aren’t just using their PCs anymore; smartphones now have a 50% share of internet use – when did you last check your website on your phone?
Another cardinal sin is leaving people on hold, or passing their call around. To avoid this from happening, keep the lines of communication simple so it’s clear who clients should be contacting. Also, ensure staff have adequate product knowledge and training so they know what to do if they’re a question veering away from the usual patter.
There should also be good communication within your team; everyone should know who can deal with what and when they are available. Otherwise, if you transfer a call more than once, you’re just not taking responsibility.
2. You made promises you can’t keep
Companies tend to make a lot of promises in an effort to win business. Whether it’s providing the best service, the most competitive prices, widest product range or speediest call outs, it’s important to be consistent in order to develop loyalty within your customer base. If you don’t deliver exactly what’s been promised, you’re simply leaving the door open for competitors.
The main issue in this area is that ‘promises’ are often driven by the sales and marketing departments. So think carefully before launching your fancy new website – are those promises backed up by your team during the entire experience?
If you find you can’t fulfil a promise, always hold your hands up and contact the customer to immediately apologise and resolve any issue before a complaint gains momentum – then work out how to stop it from happening again.
3. You don’t value them
Saying you value your customers and showing you do are two very different things. How many times do you thank them for their business? How often do you check in, just to see how business is going? To put it another way, how often do they get an impersonal, automated letter or email? How long are they on hold whilst waiting through to get to the customer service team?
Successful companies recognise that you will never understand what customers’ value until you ask them. The reality is many don’t ask because they are scared of a negative response. The question is, how many customers are you willing to lose before you take action?
It’s no surprise that popular business improvement standards such as ISO 9001 or Investors in People are focused around the customer’s requirements. For any business that tenders for government or supply chain contracts, these standards are often requested because it gives some assurance that the company takes customer satisfaction seriously – what they deliver isn’t simply down to luck!
4. You treat everyone equally
Wait a second – isn’t that a good thing?! Maybe when it comes to your kids, but not with your customers. Those spending £100,000 a year should not be put into the same sales and support queues as those spending £1,000. The classic faux pas by a huge array of companies is that they provide new customers and dawdling prospects special promotions whilst the loyal ones who’ve been with you for years get nothing!
The result of this treatment is a bitter taste in existing clients’ mouths, whilst the new customers expect more, leading to a disproportionate amount of resources being spent on them. Therefore, it’s important that you are tracking and storing information on your customers at all times to ensure they are being well looked after.
5. You don’t take their complaints seriously
Once upon a time, complaints could be shrugged off. However, with the advent of Facebook, Twitter and other forms of social media, one little voice could ruin your reputation. Whilst we may be out of the recession, that time provided us with an additional reminder on why it’s so important to look after existing customers.
Ideally, you shouldn’t be waiting for a complaint to happen; any hint of disquiet should result in action being taken to avoid the same issue being felt by any other clients. This will help you please your customer, save you time and protect your reputation.
If you do receive a genuine complaint, then it’s important to remember that perception is reality – do not go defensive and start wading into an argument! If you have failed – in their eyes – to deliver, admit it, apologise, and make it right. Not only will this help get them back on side, but it could actually strengthen their faith in you.
Following up on the first tip, ensure someone takes responsibility for the complaint. If the aggrieved client is passed around departments or constantly has to chase for an update then – frankly – you don’t deserve them.
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