Sunday, 19 February 2012

How to keep customers forever

Twenty six our of 27 customers who have a problem with a product or service will not report their dissatisfaction.  Why?  Largely because those 26 people feel it would be a waste of time to complain.  They believe they will not receive satisfaction and that the company may not even take heed of their complaint.  That attitude eventually results in lost sales.

One of the secretaries in the executive suite of a company is responsible for making airline travel reservations for all of the executives.  She is biased against one airline that treated her poorly in one instance in the past, so she uses only its competitors.  The gross cost to the airline that once provided inadequate service is $100,000 a year.  If she continues to handle the arrangements for 20 years, that will mean a loss to the airline of $2 million.

At a small IBM computer installation at a wholesale distributor the equipment went down at a critical time.  A panic call was made.  Within three hours, there were six IBM technicians working on the equipment.  It was a small computer room and they were practically hanging from the ceiling.  By mid-afternoon, the equipment was back on track.

The installation was on a service contract, so all of the extra effort did not cost the computer user one cent.  However, there was not question, from the president on down, that no other computer manufacturer would gain entry into the company after that.  The company grew and acquired other companies.  After an acquisition, any non-IBM equipment was replaced by IBM equipment.

These are some of the hallmarks of poor service:

  • Too few incoming phone lines to the service department.
  • Callers are frequently placed on excessive hold.
  • Service personnel transfer calls to other areas.
  • Loss of misplacement of paperwork by service people.
  • Low ability of service people to grasp the problem.
  • Failure or excessive delays (i.e. days) to return calls.

Customer problems that are handled well, even though not to the complete satisfaction of the customer, can result in repeat or continuing business.  Sometimes just a little understanding of the customer's predicament can cause customer appreciation.

How knowledgeable are your service people?  In an experiment, a bank president called his bank, without mentioning his name, to ask about interest rates.  After a few minutes, he slammed the phone down in exasperation.  His bank took large, expensive ads in all the local newspapers.  These advertised the current rates to attract new depositors.  In addition, every bank branch lobby had a large sign indicating the rates.  Yet the switchboard operator could not answer the question and the new accounts department, after hearing the question, put him on hold.

Follow the lead of the bank president and call your customer service department.  If a name is required, us a fictitious one.  If you voice could recognised, have a friend or your spouse call.  Take notes.

Later, make recommendations for improvements in the handling of customer calls.  Those improvements can be monitored.  After a while, it will get around that someone is checking on customer service.  As the customer service staff do not know which alls are part of the ploy, all calls may receive better service.

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