Do your customers love you? The kind of love that inspires spontaneous thank-you letters and water cooler comments like “My new car is great — I highly recommend it and the dealership where I bought it!”
No? If you suspect your customers aren't feeling the love, Jeanne Bliss says you've got work to do.
“Customers who don't absolutely adore you are more detrimental to your business than those who belong to your competitors,” says Bliss, author of the book Chief Customer Officer: Getting Past Lip Service to Passionate Action. (Jossey-Bass/A Wiley Imprint, $27.95).
“If you don't enthrall your customers — and make them believe you respect them — you'll lose them,” she says. “The good news is you can make them love you. It just takes a hefty dose of commitment, energy, and old-fashioned elbow grease.”
The problem with most companies, she says, is that they simply aren't structured to act collectively on behalf of customers. People are stuck in their silos making independent decisions, taking isolated actions for the purpose of executing their discipline, achieving good numbers, and earning a good review. And of course the customer experience doesn't happen neatly down each individual silo.
“This is the breeding ground for the lack of respect customers feel and the discontent they have with us,” says Bliss, a customer-satisfaction expert whose career included a senior manager stint at Mazda Motor Corp. “The typical silo structure bumps the customer disjointedly along to deliver the outcome of its experience.”
So how can you make your customers love you? Bliss offers 10 tips for getting started:
1 Eliminate the complicated, conflicting customer obstacle course that makes it hard to figure out who to talk to and how and when to get help. It is in these hand-offs that customer failures occur. Simplify it and make it clear how people can do business with you in a way that benefits them.
2 Stop customer hot potato. He or she who speaks to the customer first should “own” the customer. There's nothing worse that sends a signal of disrespect faster than an impatient person on the other end of the line trying to pass a customer off.
3 Give customers a choice. Let them know up front that they can decide the way to communicate with you: in person, by phone, emails or whatever.
4 De-silo your website. Websites often are cobbled-together parts created separately by each department. Depending on what link is clicked, customers feel like they're entering entirely different companies. Figure out collectively what the message is, what the vitals are and how you will serve them via your website. Then deliver an on-purpose brand experience.
5 Consolidate phone numbers. Even in this advanced age of telephony, companies still have a labyrinth of numbers customers need to navigate to talk to someone. Skinny down this list and then let customers know about it.
6 Fix the main issues bugging customers. We have over-surveyed our customers to find out how we can improve. Customers have told us. You can probably recite the list. Do something about it.
7 Help the frontline to listen. The frontline has been programmed. We've robotized our frontline. Let them be human, give them the skills for listening and understanding, and help them deliver to customers based on needs.
8 Deliver what you promise. There is a growing case of business-world memory loss that aggravates customers. The customer has to strong-arm his or her way through a maze just to get basic things accomplished. They're exhausted from that, they're annoyed, and they're telling everyone they know.
9 When you make a mistake, right the wrong. There's nothing more frustrating to customers than a company doing something wrong, then being either clueless about it or failing to admit error.
10 Work to believe. As tempting as it is to debate customers to uphold a policy to the letter of the law, suspend the cynicism and work to believe your customers. Most are going to honestly relay what is happening to them with your product or service.
“Getting customers to love you has got to start with showing them the respect they deserve by making it painless and eventually a joy to do business with you,” says Bliss.