Four customer service questions every business owner needs to answer.

I’ve been on a conference this week where one of the topics was customer service. The discussion got me thinking about some of the key questions every business needs to address.

What obstacles do we put in the way of customers?

One of the key messages that came from the conference was the need to see our businesses from the customer’s perspective. How easy is it for them to do business with us? What is their experience at every touch point?

We see the bosses of large companies go ‘Back to the floor’ and become the ‘Undercover Boss’ for TV programmes. The idea is that they get to see what is really happening in their business. Those of us running small businesses may think we know, but do we really? How many calls do we miss? How long do prospects have to wait for a quotation or a follow up? How long does the website take to load? Do all the links work?

When did you last review the touch points in your business? Is it time for you to step into your customers shoes and see your business from their perspective?

Do we know more than our customers?

We live in the Information Age when the majority of our customers research their alternatives thoroughly before reaching a purchasing decision. Typically they will search the web, they might take a look at comparison sites if there are any and they look at rating sites such as Trip Adviser. They may then talk to a number of competing firms before they reach their decision.

By the time the prospect gets to talk to us they are very well informed and if we’re not careful they may be better informed than we are. That’s why it is really important to know our products and services inside out, to seek feedback from existing customers and to understand how we compare to the competition. If we can’t add value to the conversation then why should anyone buy from us?

What do you do to ensure that you and your staff know more than your customers so that you can add value?

Does our customer care extend beyond the sale?

I’m sure we all appreciate the importance of looking after the customer on their way to making a purchase but what happens once they have paid the bill? I know I have been delighted in the past to receive a thank you letter from a director of a company where I have made a purchase. That gives a great impression but does it really go far enough? How might I have felt if the company contacted me six months later to check that all was well with my purchase?

Nikki King Managing Director Isuzu

Nikki King Managing Director Isuzu

One of the speakers this week was Nikki King, MD of Isuzu trucks in the UK. Nikki writes a personal letter to the customer following their purchase thanking them for buying and giving her home phone number should there be any problems. Her customer advisers then ring each customer every three months to check that all is well. These calls feed into a ‘problem’ report and the top six items on the list become priorities for fixing. This focus on customer care ensures that 78% of Isuzu customers buy again against an industry average of 18%.

How many of your customers buy again? Would more follow up increase your repeat business?

What happens with customer complaints?

How do your customers complain? Do they complain? If they have a complaint do they make it in person or do they post comments on a feedback page or on social media? Do you have a system for dealing with those? Apparently 70% of complaints made on social media go unanswered, this hardly enhances a business’ reputation.

Figures often quoted suggest that a complaining customer will tell 12 others and those 12 will each tell 5. I wonder if those figures are still true. If customers are using social media to complain then the reach of that complaint becomes even greater and failure to deal with those complaints will really be costing business.

I would like to see if these figures are still accurate. Could you help by taking a couple of minutes to complete my quick survey? Thank you.

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