Daily practice

Customer service is akin to exercise, the more you do it the better it is for you (and for your customer). And, as David Evans, chairman of the Grass Roots group, says, customer service should be practiced every day. Evans, who is interviewed in the article Customer Service to be Practiced Every Day, in the U.K.’s Economic Times,  concludes the following:

a consistently well-delivered product or service at good value goes much further than programs that focus on retaining customers with “bribery.”

To Evans, customer loyalty programs are the “bribery.”  The article says that Evans:

doesn’t care for loyalty cards and says price-driven loyalty is often the lowest form of loyalty. Instead, Evans tells his clients that the best way of retaining customer  is to enhance the overall value of their product or service.

In sum, maintaining a customer relationship is about offering a quality good or service, consistently. People will seek out the better product or service.

What do you think?

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Eyes on the prize

Perhaps the main reason exemplary customer service is good for the bottom line is that it builds loyalty.

In the new George Clooney film, Up in the Air, Clooney’s character flies on one airline exclusively, with the goal of reaching the most elite frequent flier status. Very few people get there, and there are fabulous rewards to be had.  The movie shows the process of building this type of intense customer loyalty. The airline rewards the frequent flier with perks, trips, special check-ins,  being greeted by name, and in turn, the flier chooses to fly that airline exclusively. It’s a win-win situation.

Strong, attentive customer service begets customer loyalty. It is that simple. Loyalty is the ultimate prize companies are seeking.

In 2010, ARMA will continue to keep our eyes on the prize: your loyalty, and the loyalty of our customers. We know it doesn’t come easy. We work hard to get it and to keep it.

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ARMA wishes our readers a very Happy New Year 2010!

Are you available 24-7?

Some customers are demanding. They want to be able to contact you 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Is that possible? Is that feasible? It depends on your business but according to Kelley McGuire writing for the TMC website, it can increase customer satisfaction. (Here’s a link to the article.)

McGuire argues that customers should be able to reach someone through an answering service, 24 hours a day:

That’s why I believe that all companies that strive to have the best customer service and customer relationships should implement a 24 hour answering service, like the one offered by ReceptionHQ, an answering services provider, with a live agent to personalize every call, no matter what time or day it’s at.

According to McGuire, the ability to talk to someone gives customers some peace of mind.

Certainly, for some businesses this would be a helpful feature.  Unfortunately, we can see where this could also backfire. If the answering service can only take messages, it may add to a customer’s frustration. When people want answers they are not satisfied with “someone will call you back.”

What do you think?

What is the customer’s experience?

Companies that seek to differentiate themselves from their competition may well ask their customers what kind of experience they have had in dealing with the company. In fact, this area is a key area of differentiation, and a place where companies can retain and gain customers. Good customer experiences lead to happy customers who will want to do business with the company again.

According to a survey commissioned by Vovici, called the CE IQ Study, customer experience is a key differentiator:

…more than half, or 55%, of respondents say that customer experience is a core differentiator that distinguishes their business from others in their market.  Customer experience has arrived, and is now as important as traditional differentiators such as quality, service and staff capabilities. Despite the global economic contraction, price was not frequently cited as a core differentiator (18%).

Read the article and analysis here.

The bottom line is simple: improve your dealings with customers and see your bottom line grow.  On that note, here is the list of top 10 retailers for customer service. On the list are Amazon.com, Zappos.com,  LL Bean and others. Have you shopped at any of these retailers? What has your experience been?

Some companies are getting it

You may have heard this week that General Motors (GM) is offering a customer satisfaction guarantee to people who buy its cars. Basically, a GM customer has up to 60 days to return a car is he/she is not satisfied, and get a full refund.  GM is trying to improve its customer satisfaction by giving customers peace of mind about a large purchase. It is also getting some great publicity mileage out of it. You can read more about GM’s program here.

Verizon has been plagued by a bad customer service reputation. Verizon Southeast (not country wide) is trying to remedy the situation by introducing the “Verizon Service Commitment,”  as reported here by the St. Petersburg Times. The company is publicizing the new policy in a a series of advertisements running in Florida.

The bottom line is that these large companies are coming to realize that customer satisfaction is an important business goal. They both are pledging/guaranteeing that customers will be satisfied with the product/service. An added bonus, which we are sure is intended, is the positive publicity this type of program elicits.

Your thoughts?