They are 2 of the first questions I ask a new Client or what is the Value you are providing to your Clients?
After lots of silence, struggles and head scratching, the answers I get range from
– We give them a product
– We fulfill their needs
– We provide a good service
I ask them what is a good service? More head scratching
– We deliver on time.. (mostly)
This can be quite an awkward session, however a very important one. After some pain and watching some people foster some serious headaches, I then throw another question at them.
Have you asked your clients what value you bring to the table?
And the answer is always no!
Even though they will be in constant contact with their clients, they never ask that all important question
– Are you happy with the service (not product – everyone can provide a product)?
– Is there something you are not happy with?
– Is there anything else you would like to see?
Or even take one step better.. do your own brainstorming and offer suggestions for them, Solve their Problems!
For the record VALUE is described as anything a customer is willing to pay for and no more. Everything else in your business is NON VALUE!
I learnt my skills early on in an industry in Ireland that was struggling hard to survive, the electronics industry. The industry was coming to an end with the emergence of the Asian market and I had the pleasure in working for a few companies early on in my career who were not only very effective internally with manufacturing, they were also excellent at providing an excellent service to their clients which, in turn, led to client loyalty and retention.
They did this, not out of a choice, it was a necessity and as they say necessity is the mother of invention. There is no wasted time or energy, playing games, taking your time to get things done or focusing on things that were not related to client value. Everyone had motivation as they knew the consequences.
It was actually amazing to see this in action, these companies were not just functionally excellent, they were cross functionally excellent. Sales teams worked with Operations, Marketing worked with Purchasing and Planning and when required, all teams worked with their Clients as if they were a part of the Client’s staff. They were the EXTENDED ENTERPRISE!
Long gone are the days of the traditional Supplier / Customer Relationship where the customer would beat you over a stick to cut your prices again and again. And for any of you reading this, and you are still doing that, please keep reading. Yes cutting prices will always be a part of the equation, markets will always demand that, however it will be done as an exercise together not a blind phone call saying ‘cut prices or else’. Good customers appreciate the value of a supplier partner they can trust, rely on when the going gets tough and always come through for them. So guess what,
BE ONE OF THOSE SUPPLIERS, BE THE EXTENDED ENTERPRISE AND BECOME A CUSTOMER CENTRIC COMPANY!
And what that is effectively saying, is that by improving your service, you can retain the majority of your existing customers
Having Clients, actually good Clients, is no doubt the most important part of the any business, they are the reason why you exist and hopefully thrive, now and for the future. They are your lifeline to profits, respect and reputation. Many people just see them as profits and without respect and reputation, you have no chance of growing your business with them or with future clients. You need that all important testimonial? Who is going to give it to you if you haven’t improved your respect or reputation with an existing client? So creating a strong base of repeat customers serves to grow your business with them long term and also to serve as case study for a new customer.
So how do you do that?
Enter Customer Centricity
You have learnt in a previous chapter about the importance of KPIs and how they should be the building block of developing and continually improving your business and processes.
Have you thought about having a KPI based on Customer Satisfaction?
If you haven’t, you should right now. By implementing a KPI based on customer satisfaction will automatically get you thinking in a customer oriented mindset and your actions will follow suit.
Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon states that foundation of his business success is about being a Customer Centric Company at ‘CCC’ Business. In his eyes, customer service is not an addition to the Corporate Goal, IT IS THE CORPORATE GOAL! It commenced with the simple philosophy of finding out what the customer wants and giving it to them, and have a guess what that involves? Yes, you guessed it.. ASK THEM!
He also incorporates and open and honest review process with his clients so they deal with Customer Feedback and Complaints HEAD ON (which we will discuss further down). Continually he strives to improve
– Service Delivery (Yearly fees for repeat customers and currently developing drone service)
– Ease of payment (1 click process)
– Provide the medium (Kindle or Kindle App)
– Creating an extended sales team to get closer to clients (Affiliates which provide 40% of their business)
– Has a great ‘Partnership’ Network – not suppliers
And everyone one of these is centered around improving the customer experience and what happens when you improve customer experience? You improve your bottom line by creating new and continuous long term HAPPY customers.
Merely by having a set of KPIs focused on customer satisfaction will dictate your future actions.
So how do you measure Customer Satisfaction or Customer Experience?
Ask them, is that hard? And guess what, ask them again, and when you are done doing that, ask them some more! After every transaction, there should be a follow up to ensure customer satisfaction and also to rate the experience.
So what are you going to do about your customer service?