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Recurring Income

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Improve your Customer Experience and Retain your Customers

30 second summary:

Improving your customers’ experience and retaining your customers are essential for profitable and sustainable growth.

In this article, Jim Rathbone explores the keys to retaining customers and giving them a positive experience, the difference between customer service and customer experience, the importance of delivering a good customer experience and how to develop your business’ standards and measures for doing so.

Research shows that 20% to 70% of new customers are lost within the first 3 months of acquiring them. All that hard earned effort in winning the new account, just goes to waste. In the financial services sector, 32% of new banking customers leave within 12 months of opening a new account.

So what are the keys to retaining customers and giving your customers a really positive experience?

1. Recognise that customer service and customer experience are not the same

Customer service is something you provide. It is the advice and support you give to customers who are purchasing your products and services.

Customer experience on the other hand is about what the customer perceives during their interaction with your business and the emotions they feel during that time.

Customer service tends to be reactive, such as how you respond to a customer issue or complaint.

Customer experience tends to be proactive and more about how you anticipate a customer’s need and the environment you create across the customer’s journey that generates in the customer positive feelings, positive perceptions and a positive overall experience.

2. Aim to excel in providing great customer experience

Every business should try to create an experience that exceeds the customer’s expectations. This goes beyond merely satisfying the customer.

When was the last time you experienced extraordinary customer service? It is probably a long time ago, if you can remember an occasion at all. This is because although many companies want to give a great customer experience, very few achieve this.

When attending a recent exhibition at the NEC, my hotel experience was a complete switch off. I was ignored at the check-in as reception staff were more interested in talking to each other than to me, the customer. They looked like they did not want to be there. The tone of voice was flat and bored. As a customer I felt disengaged within minutes.

Correct poor attitudes throughout your organisation and especially amongst frontline staff. Recognise individuals in your company who genuinely care about the customer and demonstrate good customer service. Remember to pass on to others positive customer feedback, especially if it is directly about your employees.

3. Develop your service vision, values and standards

Everybody has a role to play in the customer’s journey: sales, marketing, frontline engineers, project managers, support, administration and credit collection staff. Everybody who is involved in the customer journey needs to buy in to what you are trying to achieve in serving your customers and in creating a positive customer experience.

This doesn’t just happen. You have to articulate the aspects of great customer service you expect in your business. And you need to create processes that support that vision and demonstrate those values.

Take Starbucks and their vision as an example:

“We create inspired moments in each customer’s day. Anticipate- Connect-Personalise- Own”

This statement is printed on the inside of every employee’s apron, and its practical application is supported by processes such as their asking for each customer’s name to personalise each order.

Take Disney and their strong overall sense of purpose that engages all employees:

“We create happiness, by providing the finest entertainment for people of all ages, everywhere.”

Disney’s expert customer service comes from its carefully designed Quality Service Compass which includes 4 quality standards: safety, courtesy, show and efficiency. These standards guide every employee as they offer quality customer service.

Develop a clear service vision and set of values/standards that guide your interaction with and the customer experience you want to create for your customers.

4. Measure your service quality and improve

Businesses tend to reach vague conclusions about the quality of the customer service they are providing. Few however measure their efforts. Many consequently overestimate the service they provide. According to Bain Consulting, a top 5 global strategic consulting groups, 80% of surveyed companies claim to give “superior customer service”. Yet when customers were asked to rate the service from these same companies, only 8% agreed that it was “superior”.

It is important to measure dimensions of service quality such as – for the security sector:

  • Annualised service contract % retention levels
  • First time fix % on call outs
  • Speed of providing the quotation after an onsite survey
  • Speed of responding to and resolving a customer issue or complaint
  • Debt over 90 days as % of total debt
  • Customer satisfaction score using an online survey tool after installation completion or further to a service visit. British Gas is a good example of a company that does this.

Once you start measuring service quality, you can develop an improvement action plan. To be in the business of quality service delivery and continuous improvement, you need to measure the service performance, otherwise your intention and delivery remains vague.

5. Develop an end-to-end positive customer experience

This demands attention to detail.

  • It requires planning, designing and embedding an improved process.
  • It involves training and coaching staff on how to give great service at all times.
  • It means giving your people the tools to serve the customers well.

Consider for every stage of the customer journey; what does the customer expect from you and how can you meet those expectations in practical and consistent ways?

Improving your customers’ experience and retaining your customers are essential for profitable and sustainable growth.

Jim Rathbone

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