In the past, consumers didn't shop around for products and services; they would go to their local supplier (who they often knew) to get what they needed.  Today, consumers have so much choice that these interactions have become more impersonal and people's expectations of service standards are much higher, knowing they can go elsewhere if they are not happy.

So, what can you do to ensure your service is the best?  Here are some tips that I've learned along the way in various roles, and from articles that I've read on the subject.

Exceed customer expectations

A customer who is merely "satisfied" is still likely up for grabs in the marketplace.

Most organizations know what customers' rational expectations are.  They know how quickly they want a delivery, how much people are willing to pay for their product, and what features it needs to have.  What they don't know is their customers' emotional expectations.  An emotionally connected customer is more likely to recommend your product, company or service, while less satisfied and connected ones are more likely to take their business elsewhere. 

Identify and anticipate customers' needs.  They don't buy products or service, they buy good feelings and solutions to problems.

If you can turn transactions into interactions and then relationships you will build an emotional connection with your clients.  Disney gives the following example:

  • Transaction - During the morning rush to buy a long-desired souvenir a guest asks, "Where can I buy a Goofy hat?"  Answer: "At the Emporium."

Simple, the question is answered.  However:

  • Interaction - The cast member adds, "Is Goofy your favourite character?  You know you can see him, along with the rest of the gang, in the parade this afternoon." 

The employee has anticipated the needs of the guest (without pre-empting too much) and freely offered them something which may add value to their experience.

  • Relationship - The cast member adds: "By the way, if you do stay for the parade, my favourite view is over in Frontierland near some of the shade trees." 

The employee has now made a move towards friendship with the guest and engaged them on an emotional level.

When every employee goes out of their way like this to make the life of their customer easier, is when it scales up and the customer ends up having a relationship with the brand.

Be convenient

According to a 2007 study the single most important factor in increasing customer loyalty is reducing the amount of work the customer has to do to get their problem solved.  The Disney example above is a demonstration of this.

When customers have a (reasonable) request, tell them that you can do it.  And, always do what you say you are going to do.  Appreciate the power of saying yes and the positive vibe that builds for your brand.

Be consistent

What's the biggest reason people stop doing business with a company?  The answer is surprising as it's NOT:

  • price
  • product shortcomings 
  • advertising from competitors 

These things can leach customers away from you, but the biggest reason people switch loyalty is poor customer service experience.  In fact, 82% of people surveyed said they have left a company because of a poor customer service experience. 

Your good service got their custom in the first place so make sure your great customer service keeps them!

One way to monitor and improve your service is to look at "moments of truth" (but that's for another blog).

Creating good customer experiences and happy customers delivers a big return on investment.  So, ensure your business in identified more by the service standard you provide rather than the products or services that you offer and you will reap the rewards.