In selling a business, raising investment or getting buy in from the board, one of the key factors is to be able to describe with total clarity the processes and therefore outcomes that can be expected.
To do this you must be able to define in an unequivocal way what is at the core of your business and what your customers want. There are few businesses that can truly do this - can you?
In the business I founded in 1997 and sold in 2007 we put customer service at the core of literally everything we did. We focused on delighting our customers and always going that bit further to make sure they were happy. We gave every member of staff a discretionary £100 to spend at any time on anything (literally anything!) to keep a customer happy. It’s a big leap of faith, truly empowering your staff to solve problems (I mean, it might cost me money – right?), but embed the culture of the customer truly being king and it rapidly starts to pay enormous dividends.
Our ability to do this significantly increased our valuation multiples and allowed a cash exit with no contracted earn out. One of the key areas that underpinned this was our industry leading customer retention rates and I know with certainty that that was 100% a result of our brilliant customer services ethos, process and team.
I recently had a poor customer services experience with a major UK brand. It lasted over three weeks and I eventually got their full attention by resorting to posting on social media. This is not something I’m entirely comfortable with, but it became the only way to be heard. I know it wasn’t the intention of the people in the customer services team to deliberately upset me, so why did it happen?
I had the overwhelming feeling that the customer services representatives were against the clock with a bunch of ill thought through KPI’s running their day and certainly weren’t empowered to take the time to truly care about me the customer.
After I had complained on social media I was (miraculously) contacted by someone who listened brilliantly and made me feel valued. I not only remained a customer, I upgraded!
Now of course few organisations can afford to allow their teams to invest unlimited time or money (even Ritz Carlton has a $2k limit - ) but have you really taken the time to understand what it will take to totally blow your customers away and shut out your competitors from seducing them?
Here’s three things you need to know:
Be brilliant at the core service of your business:
Seems obvious but too few organisations take the time to work with their customer contact teams to really understand this. After all they know far better than you as they talk to customers every day. Ask them often what customers value most and get even more brilliant at that.
Empower your team
Empower and enthuse your customer contact teams to truly care about the outcome for the customer. What does delighting your customer with truly awesome service look like? You employ capable people so treat them with respect and they will likely come up with truly awesome ways to keep customers on board, often at very little cost.
Have a conversation – get to know your customers:
When was the last time you talked to a regular customer? Not the big-ticket, key account type but the normal day-to-day type of customer. Get in the habit of regular and meaningful conversations with them about why they do and don’t buy your products or services. Understand what your business looks like to them and what they would recommend you to someone else for? Not through a survey – an actual conversation!