It's National Customer Service Week this week, and a good time to remember that keeping customers coming back should be your company's first priority.
Richard Shapiro is the founder and president of The Center For Client Retention and author of the forthcoming book, "The Welcomer Edge:Unlocking the Secrets to Repeat Business" (Vantage Point, 2012). He believes that it's your employees' personal relationships with customers that delivers the best customer service.
"Too many companies don't understand that while delivering excellent customer service is one of the key ingredients for repeat business, it's that special personal relationship with one customer and one associate that provides the link between customer satisfaction and customer retention," he said. "The service delivered by frontline associates must be viewed as the first step in the journey of loyalty."
Shapiro offers ten tips for retaining customers.
1. Make sure that every one of your frontline associates is capable of making a good first impression. First opinions are formed within the first 10 seconds. You never have a second opportunity to make a warm and welcoming first impression.
2. Show appreciation to your customers. Thanking customers in a meaningful and thoughtful manner on every customer/frontline encounter shows customers you care and appreciate their business.
3. Review your letters and email communications to ensure that they sound welcoming, personalized and make your customers feel important and appreciated.
4. Create a culture whereby your associates are treated as family and neighbors and they will, in turn, treat your customers the same way. Customers notice and appreciate when a company appreciates their associates.
5. Answer questions from customers by not only responding to their direct inquiry, but by providing them with additional useful information. Customers often enjoy learning more about a potential purchase than what's written on a tag or in a brochure.
6. Understand that the underlying ingredient of customer service is helping people. Make sure that every frontline associate has a history of helping people. It will almost guarantee a great customer service experience.
7. Say hello and smile. Getting a big, warm hello can go a long way in giving a customer the feeling of "Hey, this company is really happy to see me."
8. Leverage the return counter in a retail store environment to make customers feel comfortable about returning an item and offering special attention to help them find what they need. Customers don't like making
returns. Make the return process an enjoyable and nondefensive process. Customers will really appreciate it.
9. Listen to customer comments such as, "This is the first time I used your site," "I just moved into the neighborhood," "I just happened to stop by," and take those opportunities to engage the customer to build a relationship and lifetime of loyalty.
10. Make sure you thank your employees and reward them appropriately.