Friday, February 25, 2011

KeFactors Friday: Customer Service or Bust

Years before the Great Recession, I was alarmed to see a change in behaviors: as if a strange malaise had overtaken the working world, most organizations were becoming indifferent and even punitive toward their customers. Incivility marked the way work was handled between internal customers.

During economic lean times, it’s easy to take an “every man for himself” attitude but a couple generations of consumers were altered by the recession.

My prediction? Recession-weary consumers would become exacting and more demanding about how they’re treated by their suppliers. This has come to pass.

“Relationship” and customer loyalty will be more important than ever. Your granddaddy’s “the customer is always right” has evolved—thanks to the Internet, social media, and m-commerce options—into questions like: How consistent is our branding?Do we have the right interaction mix so customers can easily find and stay engaged with us? Will our call center folks respond knowledgeably when queried by a customer who’s just pulled info off our Web site?

Ask not how to make the customer more accountable to you; ask how you can be more accountable to your customer. How easily can your employees see a profile of each customer they’re talking with? An associate told me he stayed with his mobility provider because even after he’d called to explain why payment would be late, they were understanding and never failed to thank him for 15 years of patronage. How well have we been using analytics to understand our customers’ values and purchasing behaviors?

Do you have a strategy for becoming a preferred supplier? Just getting enough work to make revenue goals is not enough. Customers are shopping for relationship now more than ever, and it takes a whole different set of ideas and behaviors to garner preferred supplier status than to merely “make nice” with one’s customers. How good’s our ability to give our customers an intelligent, customized response?

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