“There are many who subscribe to the convention that service is a business cost, but our data demonstrates that superior service is an investment that can help drive business growth. Investing in quality talent, and ensuring they have the skills, training, and tools that enable them to empathize and actively listen to customers are central to providing consistently excellent service experiences.” – Jim Bush, Executive VP at American Express

Most business owners know the fastest way to build a successful business is to hang onto the customers you already have, and make sure they are your biggest brand ambassadors; singing your praises to family, friends and business associates. It’s all about repeat business and referrals.

If you haven’t seen the statistics, it is 6-7 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than to keep an existing one (White House Office of Consumer Affairs).  On average, loyal customers are worth up to 10 times as much as their first purchase (White House Office of Consumer Affairs).

The key to keeping your customers is to offer a great service or product at a great price.  While this may be a great start, it’s only a start.  The challenge comes with how you react and respond if a problem arises with that product or service, which invariably it will. What policies and procedures do you have in place for you and your employees to follow, to make sure that customer walks away happy, and moreover, has every intention of returning?  You do have policies and procedures in place to offer a consistent customer experience… don’t you?

These policies could be as simple as returning phone calls, emails, texts or social media messages.  Then again, they may be a bit more complicated, such as handling delayed shipments, out of stock products, defective merchandise or returned items, then compensating your customers for these inconveniences. Are your employees empowered to handle the most basic problems?

Any time a customer is unhappy and wants to let you know about it should be considered a great learning opportunity, not a waste of time.  Most customers will not take the time; they will just take their business to your competitor.  Really take the time to listen.  And if the situation warrants it, ask more probing questions to get to the root of the problem.   It could be your customer is just having a bad day and is taking it out on you.  Or it could be they have had problems with your product or service in the past, and this could be the last straw before bolting to your competition.

The key is listening and empathy.  Put yourself in your customer’s shoes.  Do they have a legitimate complaint?  Remember, if this customer is experiencing this problem, you can be sure others are as well.  Learn from the issue, correct the mistake, and move forward.

Customer feedback is invaluable, no matter how you get it.  The worst thing you can do is dismiss or ignore it.  Research shows if you correct a problem or mistake in a timely manner, customers will do business with you again, because they know you care enough to make it right. And please make sure you thank your customer (by name, if possible) for giving you the information.

While Customer Service should be an integral part of any business, it is becoming more and more about the complete Customer Experience, how a customer feels from the moment they are thinking of doing business with you.  Make it a positive experience, and the odds are they will be back.

Paul Rutter is a customer loyalty, repeat business and customer service expert, a keynote speaker, corporate trainer and business author. He has had the unique opportunity to live with his customers and co-workers for months at a time traveling the world, and shares his experiences with land based businesses. For more information on More Than Perfect® Service, contact Paul at Paul@PaulRutterSpeaks.com, follow him on Twitter on @RealPaulRutter or visit him on Facebook/PaulRutterSpeaks.

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