You’ve heard of the old adage “the customer is always right.”
Well, not always, or at least, not literally, but that’s the subject of another tale which I will tell you about later – how to tell them they are wrong, and still keep them as a customer.
However what the old adage does highlight is how important it is to listen to your customers so that you are on top of all kinds of feedback – good and bad – and be ready to respond.
Really great businesses have really great customer responsiveness. They know what their customers want and provide it to them, they understand customer frustration and provide solutions quickly.
Is your business responsive to your customers?
Being responsive to your customers is about knowing who they are, how they react to your products and service, what kind of innovations they would appreciate, and how they want to be treated when something goes wrong. In the old fashioned pre-digital age, this was called good, personal customer service.
If you are not old enough, ask your parents (or grand-parents if you’re really that young – show off!) what it was like when they used to go to their corner hardware or grocery store. The people behind the counter probably knew your name, or if they didn’t they nodded and smiled at you as if they did. When you asked them for something, they didn’t just point and tell you which aisle it was in; they walked you over, showed you the range, and discussed the pros and cons of each variant of what you wanted. They might even have asked you what you wanted it for and discussed with you how you should do it.
If you came back the next day and said that their product was defective they immediately exchanged it or gave you a refund. If your small child was with you they probably got a sweet.
And, funnily enough, if enough customers asked for something they didn’t carry, next week you’d probably find it on the shelves.
Ah, the Golden Age of customer responsiveness!
The good news is there is a digital equivalent of that type of customer responsiveness. You can implement customer responsiveness in your business by slightly changing your attitude, your practices, and the technology that you use.
First, you need to review the attitude you have towards the customer. I’m sure (I hope!) you believe the customer is important, but in your value scale of 1 to 10 where 10 is most important are they at the higher end when compared with how you value your own convenience?
Once you are sure of your answer here are the three adjustments to your attitude:-
- Be prepared to always, at every opportunity, ask them what they want. What do they want in product range, quality and price? What do they want in new products? What do they want in service? Then be prepared to explore their answers and see how to make it easier for them to get it.
- Be 100% responsive to queries – make this a service standard for your business, that no query goes unanswered, and that all answers are as prompt as you can give. There may be some quid-pro-quo in this. If you cannot or do not have the resources to provide nearly 24/7 response, then ensure that you respond within 24 hours. If you are only open 9 to 5, then respond within the same day before 5.
- Accept criticism. Turn it around and instead of criticism, see that you are actually receiving the suggestions for how to make your business unbeatable! Look at the feedback and ask yourself “How can I use this to improve my service/product/response?” And if you get extremely negative complaints, ask the single most disarming question of the customer: “Tell me what can I do that will make it better for you, and I’ll do it right now.” This will stop an angry Tiger tank in its tracks as it realises it doesn’t have to complain any more harshly because you will resolve it there and then.
Of course, the right attitude can cure many ills but it doesn’t do it alone. You will need to change a few practices in order to build the customer experience expected of your attitude. These are two suggested practices to build better customer responsiveness:-
- Review every customer touch-point. Look at every instance and way in which a customer comes in contact with your business – in store, on the telephone, by email, by letter, through your website, on social media – and make their experience smooth. Install human and technological systems to capture each contact and respond in time. Make sure your digital contacts are convenient for them – one touch emails, auto responders, and the like.
- Provide FAQ’s. The old days of a counter clerk taking you behind the store to look at all the models of what you want to buy, and answering all your questions are over. The cost has, sadly, put that to an end. However you can use today’s methods to provide the same kind of service. Make sure you have contextual information on your website so that products can be compared and have their features and benefits outlined. Compile FAQ’s from past customer interactions – to which all your staff can contribute. Make sure they are up to date and share them in the most convenient ways and formats for your customer. People today are putting them in the cloud, on websites, searchable on Google, using 5 minute video clips – choose the ones most accessible to your customers.
Finally, you do need to tweak your technology to ensure you have the infrastructure to be more responsive to your customers:-
- Use mobile technology and mobile apps. Use social media, Twitter to broadcast news, Facebook to receive and respond to comments. Monitor client rating services such as Yelp and Tripadvisor.
- Ensure that even if you are not available 24/7, that your technology allows the receipt of comments and queries so that you can respond in line with your service standards.
- Install your FAQ’s in the cloud.
Perhaps the customer isn’t always right, but you do need to know what they are saying and be able to respond as soon as possible. Customer service isn’t just about dealing with complaints, its about being so “in the know” that you are ahead of the curve as far as your customer is concerned.
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