What's Customer Satisfaction Really Mean?
I’m out there talking with all kinds of business owners in different industries. Most of them claim that a key differentiator for their business is that it maintains a high level of customer satisfaction based on understanding needs, providing great service, and fixing up anything that goes wrong.
The problem is that if everybody is taking the same approach, it’s not a differentiator. It’s become the new normal.
Either that, or people are kidding themselves. I find that a lot, actually. When I walk into a business, I try to get a sense for what the customer experience might be. I was in a shop last week where the owner raved about their customer service, but in fact it took quite a few minutes for anyone to acknowledge my existence when I walked in. And when someone approached me, it was pretty brusque, not particularly welcoming at all.
And don’t get me started about the number of business owners who don’t actually answer the phone, or don’t respond to contacts in a timely manner.
How do you know if your business is actually delivering the level of customer service you want? Well, don’t ask your employees – they want to keep their jobs. Don’t ask your managers – they don’t want you to yell at them. Don’t ask your friends – they don’t want to criticize you.
Ask your customers. They’re the ones that matter. And ask your NON-customers, the ones who decided not to do business with you. They have a different viewpoint on how the experience went.
How do you ask them? This is tricky. You could ask your next customer, “how did you like the experience of working with us?” But there’s every chance that they’ll avoid any confrontation, giving you generic answers but little useful information. If you ask something more specific, though, you could get powerful feedback. “We have a goal to welcome everyone within one minute – did that happen?” “Where do you feel we could have done a better job of explaining your options?”
Here’s a very powerful concept: Ask people for helpful and constructive input, rather than critical feedback. Most people avoid being critical to your face if they don’t have to. But if you ask them for help so you can improve things next time around, many people really would like to feel helpful. “What would make this an awesome experience for the next customer who walks in the door?” “Do you have any ideas for how we could have made your time with us better?”
And always say thank you. For real. Not that bland “Thank you for your feedback, we value your time blah blah blah” stuff that I got at the end of the survey I filled out this afternoon.
If you want to be better than the competition by having more satisfied and loyal customers, you always have to be striving to improve. Big steps, little steps, but keep moving.
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That Feeling Of Isolation
I was talking with a person this week who has some struggles with being isolated from the rest of the community. She happens to live with all her customers, 24x7, and has a tough time making connections with others outside her business.
For her company, she needs to be out there developing relationships with future customers. She can’t just throw money at advertising and expect people to walk in.
I’ve seen a lot of business owners who struggle with a similar problem. It’s not because they’re physically isolated from the rest of the community, but that they’re working 80 hours a week and don’t have the strength to get out there and interact with the larger world. This typically creates a few problems:
- They’re not making connections with people who might be future customers, partners, or employees.
- They’re not getting new business ideas which might produce breakthroughs.
- They’ve sacrificed their quality of life, and personal relationships are suffering.
This sense of isolation can be damaging, even fatal, to your company.
Most people recognize that they should be watching the competition, and general developments in the industry. It’s great to keep up on the right magazines, trade groups and newsletters. But there are much bigger opportunities out there.
One of my roles as a coach is to ask, “why do you do it that way?” And I’m not talking about just your company – this includes asking why your industry does it that way. I ask this because I often find innovative ideas which exist in one place and are totally unknown somewhere else. I’ve been amazed at some of the great progress I’ve seen in making stores more comfortable and attractive to customers – these might not be in YOUR industry, so maybe you have to look around at other examples.
Where do you find out about these kinds of things? Talk to friends in other industries. Read more general business blogs. Pay attention when you’re out running personal errands.
But don’t get stuck inside your own industry. Other people will come from the outside, inject some new ideas, and become the new winners.
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