28/11/2011

By Elena Davidson, Client Services Director at Mi liberty

A brand’s image is undeniably linked to its reputation for customer service[b/]. Consumers expect no frills airlines to provide no frills service and expect high —end clothing stores to offer high end service. Customer experience is also undeniably linked to profitability. Recent Maritz research showed that twice as many as car dealerships with low satisfaction went out of business in recession as those with high scores.

Despite the undeniable link between customer service and profitability, many providers of B2B services including marketing and PR fail to focus on customer happiness. Many fall into the trap of seeking to win rather seeking to retain business.

This can have a number of negative impacts including falling revenue and negative publicity. Conversely improving customer service leads to an improved reputation and greater revenues. Longer term partnerships also foster a sense of trust between companies, meaning an agency can act as a trusted adviser to its clients. This creates a more positive environment and also enables agencies to provide the sometimes difficult but necessary advice that can be fundamental to a company’s future success.

Research shows the average business never hears from 96% of its unhappy customers so how can companies make sure their customers are happy and what can they do make sure their customer experience is all that it should be?

[b]Know your customer - Building an in-depth knowledge of the area that a company works in will enable you to build the solutions that work best for them, meaning you can make them stand out against their competition. Similarly getting to know your individual clients will allow you to tailor the way you work around their needs. This can range from preferred call times to different reporting methods.

Get feedback — As covered above it is sometimes difficult for a company to know when its customers are unhappy with the service provided. Putting in place a regular check to measure performance can be an effective way to gather feedback from customers. Scheduling quick informal face-to-face catch ups also provides an opportunity to nip any small annoying issues in the bud.

Cover the basics — Sloppy admin will always create a bad impression. Silly mistakes on reports and emails are easily avoided by double checking them before they are sent. Making mistakes when billing is no-no and again something easily avoided by putting the right checks in place.

Ensure the customer feels valued — No-one likes to feel ignored and failing to keep in contact with your customer is one of the fastest ways to ruin your reputation. Scheduling regular updates and reports will reassure them that you are on track with your work for them. Responding to emails and phone calls in a timely manner will help customers feel valued.

Say thank you — Acknowledging your customers business will further build this sense of value. Spending a relatively little amount of time and money on imaginative gifts to say thank you on a regular basis can pay dividends in keeping a customer on side.

Ensure the delivery of results - It is very easy for a sense of complacency to creep into longer term relationships. Customers need to know that you are continually striving to achieve the best possible results for them. Regularly reviewing strategy and scheduling brainstorms will enable you to think about new ways of working. Being transparent and realistic about expected results will create a sense of trust between you and your customer.

Taking the time to regularly address these points will help in retaining customers and in building long term relationships. However providing excellent service is not an individual task. The provision of great service needs to come from everyone within the organisation. Setting performance standards and training the entire team from junior to senior will empower every individual.

Building a good relationship with the customer is a hard task. It is not a simple one step process and requires long-term thinking. To provide a great customer experience service providers have to think outside of their own business and make sure they address the pain points of their clients. Thinking through your customers’ eyes will enable you to meet their needs and build your reputation as a provider of exceptional service.


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