A recent article on Businessweek.com suggests that $5.9 TRILLION dollars are lost every year by companies whose angry customers take their money and go to a competitor. What is the main reason these customers leave? More often than not, it is because they feel that the company has not met their needs, usually because it didn’t listen to them.
How well do you and your employees communicate with your customers? Does the communication travel in both directions? Want to make sure it does? Here are 5 things you can train your team to do right now that will keep the feedback loop open and active:
- Look for body language (or listen for “that tone”) that indicates the customer has a problem. If someone is on your floor looking around like a tourist, or is making big full-arm guestures, they probably need assistance. If they sound exasperated, they likely are. This is an opportunity for a win. Be proactive. Don’t make them ask for help when you can see they need some.
- Ask customers to provide insights about their experience with your business. This can get you both positive and negative responses, which are also perfect for coaching your staff. Handing out customer questionnaires (don’t make them too long) or business cards with a website for a survey are two ways to accomplish this, but you can also find out a lot just by asking people their thoughts as they depart the store or step away from the counter. Even informal feedback is valuable.
- Empower your employees to recover common situations without requiring approvals, but have that recovery include handing out a manager’s business card so the customer can share his feelings after all is said and done. We all know that a customer whose experience went badly but was successfully recovered is the best possible source of referrals, so close the feedback loop with these customers and provide them access to a decision-maker in case they aren’t completely satisfied with how the front line employee handled things.
- LISTEN! Listen with all your attention and recap what you heard when the customer is finished sharing with you. This works in couples therapy for a reason: it ensures both parties are on the same page and that the communication is clear. Anytime you are talking with a customer, stop whatever you are doing and really listen. Do this even when on the phone. You may pick up on nuances you would have missed if you continued shuffling papers or looking at your computer screen, and it certainly makes the customer feel good to know they are the most important thing in your world at that moment. Aren’t we all looking for that feeling?
- Give them what they’re asking for. Any time you hear the same thing repeatedly from your customer base, you should give serious consideration to implenting the thing they are telling you they want. Obviously the customer isn’t always right, but if many of your customers (especially the regulars!) tell you they want free coffee or that your sandwiches would benefit from better bread (or whatever), don’t you think you should at least look into it?
Your customers have an interest in seeing your business remain successful so they can keep doing business with you. Even angry customers who complain are asking you to give them a reason to continue doing business with you; that’s why they’re complaining.
Put yourself in their shoes for a minute. Have you ever been disappointed with a company with whom you’ve done business? How well did they handle your disappointment? Did you feel like they really listened to you? Did you spend any more money with them?
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