Rule #1
If we don’t take care of the customer, Somebody else will!

I saw this on a poster years ago. I love it! And it really is “rule 1”. Customers are loyal to good serve, but very swift to move on to your competition if they feel they are not valued. I saw a similar sign on the inside of the deli door at the New Frontiers Natural Marketplace in Flagstaff, AZ. It said:

“When you see, hear or meet a customer, all other duties are put on hold. First and Foremost, serve the Customer! “ (Their bold  )

I like to say that if all businesses ran this way, I’d be out of a job. Unfortunately for us as consumers, many businesses (or the people that work in them) just don’t get it. When you make the customer the most important part of your day, you are not only facilitating a sale “today”, but are ensuring that that person will come back – and tell their friends.

A study done by American Express Global Customer Service Barometer in August 2010 showed that a majority (61%) of Americans report that quality customer service is more important to them in today's economic environment and will spend an average of 9% more when they believe a company provides excellent service. How much would 9% more on each purchase add to your bottom line?

Here is another statistic that I love, from the White House Office of Consumer Affairs: It costs about five times as much to attract a new customer as it costs to keep an old one. All that money spent attracting new customers and clients…spend half of it on employee training and motivation and see what the returns are.

Another fact to keep in mind is that happy customers tell their friends. There is no cost to referrals, but the return is tremendous. However, don’t lose sight of the flip side of this equation. Each of your clients has a sphere of influence of 250 people (also from the White House Office of Consumer Affairs). So if they are unhappy with you – that can be devastating to your bottom line. And it seems to be an aspect of human nature – we like to complain. Consequently we tell many more people about a ‘bad’ experience than we do a good one. I’m sure you’ve seen the statistic that happy clients tell 3 to 5 people and unhappy ones tell 10 to 15. And as I like to add – those statistics are pre social media. One negative comment on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube can go viral and reach literally millions of consumers. See United Breaks Guitars by musician Dave Carroll if you don’t believe me: (Over 10 million views as of this writing….)

So, the goal is maximize positive customer experiences and minimize the bad ones. However, since we are human, even the best customer care employee can have a bad day (or just a bad customer that there is no pleasing). So the next rule, should be on how we recover from a bad experience. 70% of complaining customers will continue to do business with you, if you resolve the complaint promptly, positively and professionally. (Heidi’s 3 P’s ) What policies and procedures do you have in place for addressing problems? How much leeway do you give to your staff to make a decision in the best interest of the customer (and therefore the company)?

Please, don’t be “pound wise but penny foolish”. A happy customer is worth their weight in gold!

Author's Bio: 

Heidi McCarthy has been customer focused her whole life, getting a good orientation in her first job working as waitress while putting herself through college. After college she worked in the corporate arena for 8 years where she learned the ins and outs of working in a corporate culture including customer service working with and traveling to clients across North America. Next she worked with her husband in his salvage diving business where dealing with the “rich and famous” taught her much about people’s expectations. Running a consulting business she started working with Custom Training Institute. The consulting soon became a full time job, where she became the General Manager and Director of Operations. This job showed Heidi the immense need for what has become her specialty niche – customer service in the electronic universe.

Additionally, Heidi has the ability of being able to see holes in systems that on the surface look to be good and solid. And, she loves to teach – to share what she has learned .

Heidi’s passion for excellence in business caused her to found Toughest Customer, where today she helps companies grow and retain customers through improved customer service and extreme client care.