10 Tips to Build Your Business and Improve Customer Satisfaction

"Richard Shapiro, President, The Center for Client Retention"

Richard Shapiro, President, The Center for Client Retention

National Customer Service Week is being celebrated from October 3-7. I have a question: are you delivering the best customer service you can? That is the key ingredient to generating repeat business, increasing customer satisfaction, and building your company.

A company’s front line employees can be an organization’s “secret” competitive advantage to securing repeat business.

Too many companies don’t understand that while delivering excellent customer service is the key ingredient for repeat business, it’s that special personal relationship between customer and employee that provides the link between customer satisfaction and customer retention.

The service delivered by front line employees must be viewed as the first step in the journey of loyalty. Your employees can be your most effective brand advocates.

10 Tips for Generating Repeat Business

1. Make sure that every one of your front line associates is capable of making a good first impression. Positive or negative opinions are formed within the first 10 seconds. You never have a second opportunity to make a warm and welcoming first impression.

2. Show appreciation to your customers. Thanking customers in a meaningful and thoughtful manner in every customer/front line encounter shows customers you care and appreciate their business. This seems obvious but not everyone does it.

3. Review your letters and email communications to ensure that they sound welcoming, personalized and make your customers feel important and appreciated.

4. Create a culture whereby your associates are treated as family and neighbors and they will, in turn, treat your customers the same way. Customers notice and appreciate when a company values its associates.

5. Answer questions from customers by not only responding to their direct inquiries, but by providing them with additional useful information. Customers often want to learn more about a potential purchase than what’s written on a tag or in a brochure.

6. Understand that the underlying ingredient of customer service is “helping” people. Make sure that every front line associate is trained to help people — to give that extra 10% of service. It will almost guarantee a great customer service experience. Employee training will improve customer service and satisfaction.

7. Say hello and smile. People are more stressed than ever as technology takes over our lives. Getting a big, warm hello can go a long way in giving a customer the feeling of “Hey, this company is really happy to see me.”

8. Make customers feel comfortable about returning an item to a store. Then, offer special attention to help them find what they need. Customers don’t like making returns, so be sure the return process is enjoyable and non-defensive. Customers will really appreciate it!

9. Listen to customer comments such as “This is the first time I used your site”, “I just moved into the neighborhood”, “I just happened to stop by,” etc., and leverage those opportunities to engage customers to learn what their needs are. Then find a way to meet those needs. In doing so you will  build a relationship and lifetime of loyalty.

10. Reward front line employees who make every customer feel welcomed and important. Be sure that you continually thank the employees who are the lifeblood of your company.

Remember, the customer relationship starts with the first hello in person or over the phone, or the first response to the click on a link to your site. A company’s front line associates are the “voice of the company.”

Are employees who “touch” the customer properly trained to build a customer relationship? If they aren’t then give them the training they need. Employees want to do good work because if the company is successful it will thrive and grow and they will, too.

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Richard Shapiro is the founder and president of The Center For Client Retention (TCFCR) and author of the forthcoming book, “The Welcomer Edge: Unlocking the Secrets to Repeat Business” (Feb. 2012). His company designs and conducts customized customer satisfaction and loyalty measurement systems for Fortune 100 and 500 corporations and small businesses. This post is adapted from a blog originally posted on his site.

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Comments

  1. Great tips Jeannette. I will add one “Provide meaningful work to your employees”. While this takes time, if you can tap into what motivates (inspires) your employees and give them work that is personally meaningful, they will naturally be more happy and hopefully will smile and take care of customers much better if they are happy. I know this may sound a bit Polly-anna-ish, but studies do show that when people are happy at work, customer service does improve.

  2. Bea, thanks so much for complimenting my tips for generating repeat business. And, for your great suggestion about “providing meaningful work to your employees.” Every associate needs to feel valued and making your frontline staff feel that they are contributing to the success of the organization, can go a long way in making them feel appreciated and important! Richard Shapiro, The Center For Client Retention

  3. Catherine, thanks so much for your post about liking my suggestions. And, yes I totally agree most of them are common sense. But, unfortunately too many company associates do not even communicate typical courtesies such as saying, hello and thank you. Hoping you have a great day!

  4. Each of the points is sage advice. Though tough to pick a favorite, I’ll say #7 is mine. A smile goes a long way and can instantaneously diffuse a customer’s tension.

    If I wasn’t so happy doing the work I do, I think I’d make a great customer service “czar.” I notice the little details and they most definitely impact whether or not I’m a repeat customer…even if the cost is high.

    I aim to deliver in my own business and these points are great to stay on track

  5. All good tips Richard. I also think it is important to train and allow the front line staff to make decisions instead of having to refer to supervisors on all matters. It empowers the staff and improves the service for customers.

  6. Are we getting hung up on the word customer. The buyer experience is the key to recurring and new business and staff and owners need to understand that good experiences bring potential repeat but in today’s world, there is little loyalty and repeat.
    Semantics plays a huge part in how people behave and while your points were all valid a number of years ago, perhaps we need to create a different model to actually get staff and buyers to build relationships and more business. Just a thought.

  7. Roberta, thanks for your comments. I feel that loyalty really has to be built one customer at a time with one company associate at a time. I think it is a great deal easier to build a relationship with a person that works for a company, than the company itself. That’s why it’s so important for companies to retain associates that are capable of building relationships and ultimately can secure repeat business.

  8. All good suggestions that I agree with Richard. By the way, you should tell people working at coffee shops in New York:-)

  9. Catarina, thanks so much for your comments about my guest post. I also live in NYC and have found a few folks I call “welcomers”. They are service providers that make the customer feel welcomed, important and appreciated. And, those are where I spend my dollars. Have a great day!

  10. Great tips Richard. This article could serve well in the employee handbook of any company.Your point number ten is a great note to end this on. By recognizing and rewarding top performing front line employees, we set an example. It’s not always easy to deal with the public but good customer service is vital.

  11. Sherryl, thanks so much for complimenting my guest post. I totally agree that it’s so important that those special associates who provide customers with unique and memorable experiences should be recognized and rewarded. In so many cases, management tends to be almost indifferent to appreciating those associates who show customers their appreciation.