Steve's Comments: This article makes total sense and whether you're an owner or a manager you should look at your company as well as yourself and ask this simple question - Are we focused on the customer?
In these rough and recessionary times, it's important to escape the commodity pricing wars and to find ways to strengthen the marketing backbone of your company. The most reliable and affordable way to achieve both these goals is by building a strong personal bond with your customers. Loyal customers see you as more valuable than a mere commodity purveyor, and can serve you as a powerful marketing arm, going out of their way promote and defend your company online and off -- for free. Here are seven ways to get process started of building customer loyalty.
1. Did you shine that doorknob?
Research shows that customers remember the first and last minutes of a service encounter much more vividly -- and for much longer -- than all the rest of it. Make sure that the first and final elements of your customer interactions are particularly well engineered, because they are going to stick in the customer's memory.
2. Set your clocks forward.
Modern customers expect speedier service than did any generation before them. (Not only speedier than their parents expected, but even than their older sisters and brothers expected.) In this age of BlackBerrys and iPhones, of Amazon.com and Zappos, you may as well not deliver your product or service if you're going to deliver it late.
3. Customers want to connect with a real person-online or off.
For example, instead of a web-based chat window that blandly announces "you are now chatting with Jane," try "you are now chatting with Jane Yang-Katzenberg." The customers will treat your "Jane" better, they'll take her advice more seriously -- and they'll be more likely to want a committed customer relationship with her company.
4. Remember each returning customer.
Whatever your business-and no matter how large, work to achieve the computer-assisted effectiveness of a beloved bartender, doorman, or hairstylist -- the kind who would know Bob's preferences, the name of Bob's pet, when Bob was there last ... Superb client tracking systems can create that same "at home" feeling in your customers -- regardless of the size and price point of your business, and whether it exists online or off.
5. Anticipate a customer's wishes.
When a customer's wish is met before the wish has been expressed, it sends the message that you care about the customer as an individual. That cared-for feeling is where you generate the fiercest loyalty.
6. Don't leave the language your team uses up to chance.
Develop and rehearse a list of vocabulary words and expressions that fit your business brand perfectly. For example, the expression "no worries" sounds fine if a clerk at a Portland Bose' Audio Store says it, but would be exceedingly off-brand for the concierge at The Four Seasons in Milan. Equally important, search and destroy any vocabulary words that could hurt customer feelings. For example, your service team should never tell a customer "you owe us." (Try instead: "our records seem to show a balance…")
7. Be patient when filling positions.
In a superb service organization, a single disagreeable or unresponsive team member can erode customer loyalty and team morale. That is why it can be better to leave a position unfilled rather than rushing to hire someone unsuitable. More generally speaking, customer excellence is most fully achieved once you become expert at recruiting, selecting, training, evaluating and reinforcing the efforts of service personnel.
article via Information Week