Why are some customers loyal while others are not?

Pave the Way to Customer Loyalty with World-class Service

We purchased a new home in May and spent much of the month packing and unpacking boxes. It’s an exciting time, for us. We love our new neighborhood and house.

Overall our move went smoothly, even though we encountered a few frustrations. I guess you can expect frustrations when moving, however.

What I found most exasperating was the amount of time we wasted waiting for service people.

You know the scenario. You request a service online or by phone and assume that you will receive service within a few days. Instead, a week goes by and rather than service, you receive a call to set up an appointment time. Annoyed you grudgingly agree to the first available time slot.

The day of the appointment, you receive a call from the technician saying he is on his way. He does not show up until three hours later, however, and so you have wasted your entire day — and probably spent a day of vacation — waiting for a morning appointment that takes place at 2 in the afternoon.

Like most customers, we expected our service people to arrive at our house when they said they would. Instead, we waited for servicing on our air conditioning unit. We waited for someone to come in to install our gas stove. We waited for the cable people to install the appropriate wiring and hook up our television and computer Internet service. We waited…and waited…and waited.

Now I don't know anything about hooking up to natural gas or the Internet, but I do know something about customer service.

Customers have specific expectations when dealing with businesses and when those expectations are not met, companies risk establishing a negative reputation. I know I will never recommend the companies who failed to show up at the time they set for servicing our needs. And in frustration, I have already told others about our negative experiences.

Which is too bad for the companies in question. As you know, word of mouth advertising gains and retains customers, while negative stories about bad experiences impact a business more than no recommendation at all.

How is your customer service?
Do you know how you are doing when it comes to customer service? How can you find out if your customers are happy with your service?

The answer is simple: ask. You can gather ongoing, critical account information with customer-loyalty surveying tools, which will help you assess the relationship between your business and your customers. Once you learn what that relationship is, you can create a targeted strategy and continually improve it.

Which brings me to your employees. Specifically, your customer-facing employees.

In creating a customer service strategy, many people — savvy business people among them — treat finding employees with a high potential for effective customer service as an afterthought.

But now I ask you: For peace of mind, wouldn't it be much better to know who among your employees and potential employees fits your strategy? Who has the attributes needed for giving good customer service?

That's where employee customer service assessments can help.

Here's the thing. Placing a person with poor communication skills or a melancholy attitude in these positions may mean losing customers rather than gaining them. And this is what you risk when you select your customer-service employees subjectively.

With employee customer service assessments, however, you can evaluate a person's behaviors, attitudes and skills to determine their capability for holding a customer-facing position.

Further, once you know who best fits your customer service roles, you can solidify the expectations you hold for these employees and then communicate your expectations thoroughly.

So if you are interested in servicing customers on every level possible, consider customer service assessments. To my way of thinking, you can’t go wrong. One bad experience can ruin a string of customers’ perceptions about your company. On the other hand, good experiences because you have the right people in the right place will enable your business to exceed your customers’ expectations and generate more business.

Tips: Five Tips for Handling Customer Complaints

Customer complaints need not ruin your day or even hurt your business. In fact, when handled right, customer complaints can drive loyalty and repeat business.

Here are five tips to help you handle customer complaints and avoid some common customer loyalty pitfalls:

1) Listen intently
Customers complain because they want to be heard. So when they talk, if you want them to know you care, give them 100 percent of your attention. Take notes if necessary to capture all details. And above all, repeat their complaints so that you and they know you understand their issues and that you plan to do something about them.

2) Apologize sincerely
An apology takes responsibility, if not for what went wrong, then at least for making it right. When a customer complains, it’s best to apologize sincerely. Rather than say, “I’m sorry you feel this way,” genuinely say, “I’m sorry this happened, and I understand how you feel. I will take responsibility for making things right.”

3) Show your appreciation for your customer’s insights
Many complaints contain valuable information from a customer’s perspective. What better way to learn how to improve your business? So show your appreciation. Thank your customers for their time and their insights.

4) Offer a consolation that fits the complaint
Many businesses offer universal consolations for whatever complaint their customers bring forward — consolations like 10 percent off their bill, a free meal or a 10 percent discount the next time they purchase an item. These businesses don’t ask for specifics, and they don’t fit the consolation to the complaint. As a result, they make complaining customers angrier. If you want your customers to appreciate your service and give you their repeat business, dig down to discover problems and then address them in meaningful ways.

5) Follow up
After you fix a problem, reach out to the customer who complained. Tell them how much you appreciate their help. By showing you care, you will gain a lot of credibility — and loyal customers.

Here's the bottom line: Customers are acutely aware of good customer service practices. They also know that good customer service isn't always about doing everything right. Sometimes it's about how you handle things when they go wrong. Yet, many companies stifle customer loyalty with the way they handle complaints.

Remember, every customer complaint is an opportunity to improve your business — but only if you see it this way.

Your Solution Toolbox: Identifying and Retaining the Best Customer-service Employees

Measuring What Matters

Is hiring rebounding? It seems so. Reports have surfaced that the insurance and medical industries plan to hire thousands of employees throughout the remaining quarters of the year.

In addition, several industries have posted optimistic news with HR Marketer. Orlandojobs.com, for example, says that over 90 percent of surveyed companies in Central Florida plan to hire. It projected job openings in the following industries in that area: medical and healthcare, hospitality, banking, finance, insurance, education, telecommunications, real estate, technology and government.

And finally, HR consulting companies have begun to report an increase in senior-level hires and increased interest in investing in employee performance management and development – the first increases since the economy began to falter in 2008.

Good news!

And there's more good news for businesses planning to hire: Prominent business failures have created arguably the largest pool of high-quality candidates in recent history.

But you know what? This bit of news comes with a caveat: As business people, we must be even more careful to identify and retain the best candidates for our available positions.

Assessments can help.

Profile International's ProfileXT®, for example, can help you determine job fit, a key indicator of how well an employee will perform and how long he will stay on the job. The ProfileXT® (PXT) uses a job match pattern that you develop by examining employees who are most and least successful in a given position. Their scores provide benchmarks for new job candidates in the same position. PXT can also help determine the best candidates for internal promotions

Customer Service Profile™
And if you want to hire people with good customer relations' skills, I suggest you use Profile International's assessment tool Customer Service Profile™ (CSP).

CSP measures six employee behaviors necessary for extraordinary customer service: trust, tact, empathy, conformity, focus and flexibility. It also analyzes how closely a candidate's perspective matches your company's customer service policies and attitudes.

You may select from one of five CSP options. Four are geared to specific areas, healthcare: finance, retail and hospital. The fifth is a general edition meant for any industry. Each option can help conquer the challenges of dissatisfied customers, legal liability, high turnover and inappropriate messaging about your business.

After a candidate or employee completes the CSP assessment, you will receive four reports:
The Placement Report offers a job match percentage that tells you how well your candidate matches your standards and the degree of alignment between what she thinks and what you expect. It also gives interviewing suggestions to stimulate a dialogue with your candidate.

The Coaching Report helps you know what areas to work on to obtain the customer service attitudes you want.

The Individual Report increases the candidate's self-awareness and helps him follow through with customer service that contributes to your success.

The Company Perspective Comparison Report compares your expectations with the candidate's responses.

I have found CSP so versatile that I've suggested using it not only for initial placement, but also as a tool for employee promotion, and for succession planning, coaching and self-improvement.

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