10 Tips to Make ’Em Love You in the New Year
How can you make your customers love you? First you have to respect them. Jeanne Bliss, managing partner of Customer Bliss, offers up some tips to get started. They’re far from easy, she says, but they’re absolutely necessary. Be persistent to keep customers happily enamored ... er ... shopping with you.
1. Eliminate the customer obstacle course. If you asked customers, they’d say that the obstacle course for figuring out who to talk to and how and when to get service is over-complicated, conflicting and just plain out of whack. Simplify the roadmap for customers. Make it clear how they can do business with you — in a way that’s actually beneficial to them.
2. Stop customer hot potato. He who speaks to the customer first should “own” the customer. There’s nothing that sends a signal of disrespect faster than an impatient person on the other end of the line trying to pass a customer off to “someone who can better help you with your problem.” Yeah, right.
3. Give customers a choice. Don’t bind customers into the fake choice of “opting out” of something. Let them know up front that they can decide to get e-mails, offers, etc. from you. Give them the choice.
4. De-silo your Web site. Web sites often are the cobbled together parts created separately by each company division. Collectively figure out what the message is, what the vitals are that you need from customers, and how you will serve them via your site. Then work to 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. All of these grew out of the separate operations deciding on their own that they needed a number to “serve” their customers. Get people together to skinny-down this list, then let customers know about it.
6. Fix (really) the top 10 issues bugging customers. We have created a kind of hysterical customer feedback muscle in the marketplace by over-surveying customers and asking (ever so thoughtfully), “How can we improve?” Customers have told us what to do and we haven’t moved on the information. You can probably recite the biggest issues right now. Now do something about them. Customers read the lack of action as lack of caring and certainly lack of respect.
7. Help the frontline listen. The frontline has been programmed to get a certain output. Sometimes this means closing the call within a time frame; often it includes some kind of upsell or cross-sell goal. We’ve robotized our frontline to the customer all over the world. Let them be human; give them the skills for listening and understanding, and help the frontline deliver to the customers based on their needs. It’s not a myth that if you can solve a customer problem successfully you have built a more profitable customer. Crunch those numbers — maybe it will help you to make your case for the resources, investment and commitment required.
8. Deliver what you promise. There is a growing case of corporate memory loss that annoys and aggravates customers every day. They wind up having to strong-arm their way through the corporate maze to get basic things accomplished. They’re exhausted from the wrestling match, they’re annoyed, and they’re telling everyone they know. And, oh, by the way, when they get the chance, they’re walking.
9. When you make a mistake — right the wrong. If you’ve got egg on your face, for whatever the reason, admit it. Then right the wrong. There’s nothing more grossly frustrating to customers than a company that does something wrong and is either clueless about it or won’t admit that they faltered.
10. Work to believe. Very little shreds of respect remain, if any, after we’ve put customers through the third degree that many experience when they encounter a glitch in our products and services, and actually need to return a product, put in a claim, or use the warranty service. 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. And because of all the “ifs, ands and buts” in policies, we’ve conditioned customers to come in with their dukes up when they have a problem. With good reason. We’ve programmed our frontline to be cynical of customers through the creation of policies that protect the corporation from the lack of judgment of the minority. Work to eliminate the question of doubt about your customers’ integrity. It will do wonders for the attitude and actions that your frontline brings to their interactions with customers.
The bottom line: Companies need to rearrange to please customers, rather than force them to navigate our organizational chart. Anything else feels like disrespect to customers. Make this your mantra: Customers defect when the silos don’t connect.
—Jeanne Bliss is managing partner of Customer Bliss and author of “Chief Customer Officer” (Jossey-Bass/A Wiley Imprint, 2006). She’s been inside companies for 25 years, arm wrestling on behalf of their customers. She developed her passion for the customer at Lands’ End. For more information, visit customerbliss.com.