Satisfied customers are the Holy Grail for any business. These are the customers that are loyal and that provide great word-of-mouth advertising to their friends. Too often we think customer satisfaction stems from mere price-point or product selection, but the truth is that there is much more going on for your average customer.
How do you boost your customer satisfaction?
1. Create your own benchmark.
What does success look like? What does a satisfied customer look like? How many sales do you need? How many customers do you need to retain? How much are you able to spend on attracting new customers?
You can gauge how satisfied your customers are by discovering how well you retain them, how often they buy, and how well they respond to your marketing, among other possible measurements.
But you have to have a benchmark, a point where you can measure up and down from.
Once you have a benchmark, you can measure whether or not you are hitting it.
2. Measure more than once.
Even Santa checks his list twice. You have your benchmarks, but how accurate are your measurements on whether or not you’re hitting them?
Measure more than once.
Measure multiple times at the same time. Ask different questions of your customers. Use different tools to evaluate sales and customer activity.
Measure three or four times a year. Measure before and after your busiest sales periods. Compare to the previous years. Measure when industry trends change.
Each time you measure is a chance to grab the steering wheel and change direction. The less you measure, the more likely you are to go off course with your marketing, your product selection, your employee training, and the services you offer.
3. Listen to what customers are saying.
Customers talk to your sales employees. They call in and talk to support. They send emails. The voice their thoughts on social media. They rate your business on consumer apps. They talk with their friends out on the sales floor about specific products. They fill out surveys. They talk to you through focus groups. They call your hotline.
Do you have a method for collecting and organizing what your customers are saying to you? Do you track the problems they point out to you? Do you have a system of responding as well as cataloging? Could you see a pattern developing in common customer complaints?
It’s important to solve an individual customer’s problem and make it right, but it’s also important to hear what they are saying and add it to a collection of previous customer comments. This helps you spot a troubling trend or a growing problem that you can fix so future customers don’t have to experience it.
Take joy in the fact that you have complaining customers. It’s not that you want to do such a poor job that they complain, but that they are telling you what needs to be fixed.
4. Listen to what customers are NOT saying.
Many customers won’t tell you anything. They won’t complain to you. They won’t rant online. Rather than confront or deal with an issue that troubles them, they find it easier to quietly go away and do business elsewhere.
Do you have a way of measuring which customers are leaving? Can you pinpoint whether or not you’ve gotten any feedback from them? Can you tell what their last interaction, sale, or experience as with you? In order to understand what your customers are not saying, you have to know how your customers think.
Find out what stopped a customer from being a loyal customer through follow-up or data tracking. Learn what roadblock you inadvertently put in front of them that kept them from coming back. It might be packaging, design, product quality, price, or store layout.
5. Make customer satisfaction a team effort.
Customer satisfaction is no doubt an overall goal of your business, but without making a concerted (and specified) team effort, it will remain one of those vague ideas that no one knows how to actually put into practice.
Designate a team whose focus is on customer satisfaction. Have the team meet periodically and use real customer complaints and comments as a basis for discussion in those team meetings. This team should come up with a concrete understanding of specific problems and specific solutions that your entire business can use.
When customer satisfaction isn’t a team effort, it’s only a vague ideal on a plaque or a poster.
6. Have a team leader.
That customer satisfaction team needs a leader. You have someone in charge of sales, and of marketing, and of other key areas of action in your business. Who is in charge of your customer satisfaction?
That’s your team leader.
If you don’t put someone in charge, you have an army without a general, running wildly over the battlefield, never achieving an end goal.
7. Fix the real problems first.
Bad leaders often solve problems that don’t exist. It’s a lot more fun to come up with ideas and solutions that aren’t fixing anything, because real problems are more troublesome and take more work.
Have a software app? If customers complain because it is too slow, changing the color palette or tightening the appearance and design is not fixing the real problem. If customers complain about a lack of selection, having more sales isn’t fixing the real problem.
Fix the real problems first. They are the ones that are creating dissatisfied customers.
8. Look at social media as customer service, not just marketing.
Your social media accounts are not just a marketing tool. They are a customer service tool. They go both ways, in sharing helpful content (which is a form of customer service) and in responding to customers who are telling you something is or isn’t right.
Your customer satisfaction team leader needs to be part of, or working with, your social media marketing team.
9. Understand your customer’s experience.
Do you know how your customer experiences your products, service, or employees? Or have you been behind the counter too long and don’t understand what problems there might be? You might have confusing signs, grumpy employees, disordered displays, or just about anything else that you’ve grown used to because you’re around it all day, but your customer hasn’t.
Ask your customers specific questions about their experience, and not “how was your experience”. Ask what they thought of the signs, the checkout process, the ability to find what they were looking for. Hire a secret shopper. Or become one yourself by visiting a competitor.
10. Don’t over promise.
Remember Scotty from Star Trek? He refused to over-promise results to the captain. In fact, he often under-promised and the over-delivered.
It is tempting to over-promise to customers to make yourself look good in light of other competitors. You might be tempted to over-promise how fast you can do something, or the quality of the product. When you over-promise, you end up with angry customers who might not have otherwise expected that level of return except that you promised it to them.
Be Scotty with your customers. Don’t promise what you can’t make good on. But overdeliver on what you promise.
11. Build relationships first.
Depending on your business, you might want to focus on building a relationship with your customer. Restaurants, for example, are prime for relationship building. Food is a huge part of people’s social relationships.
Relationships are personal. Get to know your customers. Find out what they like. Learn their names. Remember them on special days, like birthdays. Reward them for being who they are. Make them feel like a VIP regularly.
12. Build customer loyalty.
Loyalty programs work because they keep the customers you have, and they do it by returning a reward.
A loyalty program is more than a punch card (though it might include that). It will vary depending on your business, but at its core, it is anything that gives something of true value back to your customer simply because they do business with you regularly.
It’s easy to think that customer loyalty is a result of customer satisfaction, and that much is true. But it can also increase customer satisfaction because everyone likes to get rewarded. A good loyalty program creates a loyal and satisfied customer loop.
13. Give back to the community.
This is a culture, particularly with the Millennial generation, that wants to help out the community and the world. They want everything they do to matter, in a positive way, to the global community.
Does your company give back to the community? Do you practice sustainability? Do you do something that positively impacts the world? And, if you do these things, do your customers know it?
Show your customers how patronizing your business helps the community, whether locally or globally. Give them a way to participate themselves, whether through the purchases they make, through donations, or even something like a specialized recycling or donation drop-off point. Get involved in local events, donate to causes, and let your customers know.
When a customer feels good about what they’re doing, they’re satisfied. And they are going to come back to the business that makes it easy for them to do something good.
14. Crack a grin.
Customer satisfaction depends on big and little things, and that includes the interaction between customers and your employees. Take a page out of Disney’s book and make it a policy that your employee’s attitudes matter. Give your customers the gift of a place where people smile and are glad to both see them and help them. That makes them feel welcome.
And if you and your employees don’t feel like smiling?
Fake it until you feel it.
15. Trash your scripts.
Scripts work great for robots, but you’re building relationships, remember?
It’s tempting to use scripts, particularly if you’re struggling with finding skilled employees, but scripts tend to make customers feel less like a person and more like a mere problem to be solved.
Trained employees who understand your business as well as care about individual customers don’t need scripts. Don’t hamstring your employees by forcing them to use scripts if they don’t need them. Give them the freedom to work with customers as people.
16. There is no such thing as “no.”
Even if you can’t do something a customer wants, you never respond with no.
You respond with a positive. You respond with money back. You respond with reward points, bonuses, freebies, or free technical support.
But you never say “no.”
17. Everyone is about customer service.
Bad customer service means low customer satisfaction. Your customer service department is not the only employees concerned with customer service, and the rest of your employees need to understand this.
Everyone is part of customer service.
Every aspect of your business is about the customer.
No one is exempt from being trained on customer service, or being held to customer service standards. There is no backroom employee who has nothing to do with customers. His job is still customer-centric.
18. Speed kills.
Speed service is important, but it shouldn’t be your god. Timeliness, quality, and personal relationships with the customer will matter more in the long run.
Sure, if you dawdle and drag your feet, your customers will be upset. But you can get that burger out super fast, and if it doesn’t taste good, the customer will remember that. Customers remember the negative. Too slow isn’t acceptable, but too fast, at the risk of quality, isn’t either. Be sure your business isn’t about speed first and foremost.
19. Ditch your policies if they aren’t customer-centric.
Any policy that you have that isn’t about the customer’s needs has to go. Why can’t you extend the trial? Why won’t you take an honest returned item? Why would you refuse a reasonable request?
Your customer policies should be about customer convenience and satisfaction, not about your bottom line or employee convenience. If they aren’t about the former, that bottom line is going to suffer in the long run.
20. Ignore the company hierarchy.
Get your managers and company leaders involved on the sales floor regularly. They are making the decisions; they need to interact and understand the customers. Without this connection, your business’s leaders can’t make decisions on a knowledge of what customer satisfaction both looks and feels like, but on guess and unfeeling numbers.
21. Reward excellence.
You’re rewarding your customers, but are you rewarding your employees?
Your employees play a huge role in customer satisfaction. Keeping your employees happy will make your customer’s experience a good one. Happy employees are better with customers than an employee who is disgruntled, bitter, or tired.
Reward your employees with something meaningful and tangible. Think: bonuses, time off, and promotions.
22. Question your traditions.
It might be the way you’ve always done it, but that isn’t a good reason in and of itself.
Perhaps you’re not even aware that customers might be more satisfied with your business if you changed something, because you simply refuse to change and your customers have begrudgingly decided to slog along with you.
What have you always done? Do you need to keep doing it? What would your customers have to say about it?
23. Write a map.
Put your customer satisfaction policies in writing, and make them accessible for all. Work with your customer satisfaction team. Talk to your sales team and map out a typical customer journey through the sales process. Write things down, have them handy, and use that to help employees understand what a customer feels, sees, needs, and wants.23 Proven Ways To Boost Customer Satisfaction Rob Wormley