Others can try to copy your prices or your products, but exceptional customer service will always differentiate you from your competition.
Knowing your customer and managing the purchasing experience is so important that an entire business marketing science has been built around the process. Customer Experience Management, or CEM, is about understanding your customers and the journey they travel to enjoy the products or services you have sold them.
When you initially think of customers, the “consumer” comes to mind. But the ultimate consumer can be different depending on the complex needs of businesses today.
Customers come in two basic varieties. One group consists of the customers who generate revenue by purchasing goods and services — these are at the top of the food chain. These revenue customers are essentially the individuals or businesses who purchase from your company.
The second group is composed of the internal customers who make the selling possible. They include employees, investors, management, vendors, etc., each with a stake in the company's success.
When these internal teams pull together, they create a bond with the revenue customer that is the essence of brand loyalty. These bonds are created by a deliberate building of relationships at the smallest element of trust. Wal-Mart's founder, Sam Walton, described it: “The goal as a company is to have customer service that is not just the best, but legendary.”
Here are some tips to getting to know your customers and starting the journey to the best customer service.
Know your customers as well as they know you
OK, it may be impractical to know each one individually, but you should make every effort to know the basic demographics and motivations of your customers. “Big Data” is everywhere within your company to inform you about your customers' buying habits. All you need to do is mine and organize the data to get useful and actionable insights into your customers.
Customers want to know more about your company
What do you stand for? What do you believe in? What are your hiring practices? How do you treat employees? What nonprofit charities do you support? What are you doing to make your company more sustainable? All of these things matter more now than they did in the past ,and it is helpful to have a written policy that addresses each of your supporting pillars.
Customers love to be acknowledged
In the TV show “Cheers” there is a line in the title song, “Where everyone knows your name.” That says everything about how to keep your customers coming back. Train your employees to remember customer names and your loyalty ratings will skyrocket.
Customers love a thoughtful surprise
I was recently passing an upscale jewelry store on a crowded sidewalk and asked a young man near the entrance of the store if he could replace batteries in a Swatch Watch. I felt a little embarrassed to even ask since the store carried only upscale watches. The young man said, “Yes, we can do that for you,” and took the watch and came back in a few minutes with a new battery. I asked how much I owed and he said it was a gift from the owner. I then went into the store and spent the next several hours doing my holiday shopping.
I learned later that the young man was the owner of the store; he was the grandson of the founder, who believed in great customer service. His friendly investment of a few minutes time and a watch battery resulted in a significant ROI and a new customer who would be telling his friends about this great store.
Know your customers personally
Take the time to visit with them for a few minutes. Try to understand how their experience with your company and your brands fit into their lives. How far did they travel to make this purchase? How did they hear about you? How long have they been purchasing from you? What role does their experience with your company and products fulfill for them?
If you can't do this one-on-one, then consider hiring a professional research firm to better understand your customers. This research can be the source of expanding to new territories and the development of new products and services for your company.
The bottom line with customer service is that customers want someone who will listen and solve their problem and deliver what they promise. If customers see you as someone who cares about their needs, you will no doubt be rewarded with their business the next time they make a purchase.
James R. Gregory is chairman of Tenet Partners, a brand innovation and marketing consultant. He has written four books on creating value with brands. Contact him directly at (203) 979-7914 or [email protected]