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Creating a customer service program
Customer loyalty and retention
Customer retention relies on building customers' product loyalty and satisfaction. Studies suggest it is more expensive to find a new customer than to retain a current customer.
About 80% of companies use customer satisfaction as an indication of performance. In recent surveys, businesses say maintaining or increasing customer satisfaction is one of their major challenges.
Satisfied customers are loyal customers. Loyal customers tell others and advertise the benefits of your products and services. This is an important additional marketing tool for your business.
Having loyal customers:
- creates great word-of-mouth referral (potentially reducing advertising costs)
- means repeat business
- increases their chances of staying with your business
- creates more stable demand for your services and products
- may reduce the negative reactions by customers when there is a breakdown in the delivery of your product or service.
Steps for creating an effective customer service program
A customer service program formalises the level of customer service you aim to provide, and what practical things you will do to achieve this.
Establishing a successful customer service program in your business requires commitment from yourself and your staff. You need to plan it, develop it, implement it and sustain it. It also involves training and feedback.
Steps to take:
- Think about what your customers need.
- Plan how you will meet their needs. Write a document outlining the program's aims, details, and how it will be implemented throughout your business.
- Deliver training to your staff, including training for any new systems.
- Implement the program, making sure all staff are confident with it.
- Sustain the program by reviewing changing customer needs and feedback.
- Encourage and support staff through a staff recognition program.
If your program is working well it will keep your customers happy, which, in turn, will mean higher profits for you.
Your customer service program
Your people need to work together to put the needs of the customer first. Staff should treat customers as individuals and listen to their comments, complaints and requests — this all adds up to a great customer service attitude. Importantly, your staff should thank customers to ensure that they feel valued, important and needed.
Your staff are the first point of contact for your customers, so it is important that they:
- have the right attitude
- are well trained
- enjoy their work
- contribute to improvements
- advocate your business.
Systems and processes
The way your customers buy from you is very important, because if the buying experience is frustrating or difficult a customer may not even complete their first purchase, let alone return. The following are some tips for your systems and processes:
- Record customer service standards and relate them back to business goals.
- Include the best point-of-sale system.
- Reward customers with a customer loyalty program.
- Record client details in a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) database.
- Seek post-sale feedback from clients.
- Establish a customer complaint policy.
- Recognise and reward staff behaviour that you want repeated.
- Review recruitment practices to ensure you employ the right front-line staff.
- Include a staff training program and review staff performance regularly.
- Ask key staff what they already do to provide good customer service.
- Encourage ideas, suggestions and observations from all staff and establish an anonymous staff suggestion box if staff are uncomfortable sharing ideas.