Front line staff know what customers want. If your front line staff are turning away customers by the hundreds or thousands because you don’t stock certain ‘in demand’ items at Christmas, you will not only lose sales but also good will and loyalty.

Customer satisfaction cannot be bottoms up driven. While excellent work can be done by customer facing personnel such as customer service call centers, or customer support personnel, sales teams and business partners, if the senior executive team do not have a commitment to customer satisfaction, the results will be sub optimal. And the front line employees will become increasingly frustrated with the lack of support for customer problems. Many employees are not included in senior executive meetings and strategy sessions so they cannot know for sure how their executives weigh in on customer satisfaction commitment but there are tell tale signs they can read that tell the story.

In an earlier blog post titled How to Get your Lost Customers to Come Back, we covered 2 basic steps: 1. Find out why they left. 2. Look for Opportunities to Engage. What are the strategies a company can use when an individual or committee made a recommendation or decision to leave, and will lose ‘face’ with their peers and management, if they decide to do business with your organization again?

What strategies can you use to overcome this problem?

Every company makes mistakes. When they do, they seek forgiveness from their customers. Customer may vary in their willingness to forgive and forget. Having a high ‘forgiveness’ index is an asset to a company trying to keep customers loyal and satisfied. Temkin, a research company has created a Forgiveness rating from 10,000 US customers across 208 companies and ranked the best and the worst, most improved and biggest losers.

Customer Effort Score is a customer service measurement created by a the Corporate Executive Board, a firm offering research and advisory services to executives in large and midsized corporations, government, and financial services organizations worldwide. They have written a Harvard Business Review article which you can obtain for free describing this measurement and the study they used to derive it. They contend that this score is a better predictor of customer loyalty than any other customer satisfaction or customer service score.

I came across an interesting article called Keeping Its Commitment To Its Customers: A Bank Does The Right Thing which I think makes an excellent point that companies often forget. At IBM we used to call it being a good Corporate Citizen. That used to mean helping out in the local community, sponsoring local events and supporting local initiatives where employees were involved. Webster Bank has an interesting approach to keeping its customers loyal through its program of Good Corporate Citizenship.

IBM has published a study of over 1700 Chief Marketing Officers titled From Stretched to Strengthened, Insights from the Global Chief Marketing Officer Study which highlights the changes the marketplace is going through and the need for businesses to adapt.

Trust is one of the many factors that relate to customer satisfaction. When a customer does business with your organization, they have trusted you enough to do business with you. But trust can be broken in many ways, covered by The Speed of Trust by Stephen M. R. Covey. Three key behaviors from this book that customer satisfaction professionals need to promote in their organizations are transparency, clarify expectations and right wrongs. A story of a major caught in a ‘real and apparent conflict of interest’ is an example of these principles.

Pros and Cons of customer-to-customer support

Thursday, August 25th, 2011

The web has made possible the creation of sites where customers help out other customers, answering each others questions, without the direct involvement of the product owner. Is this a good thing? What are the pros and cons of this kind of support for customers?

Gary Vaynerchuk has written an excellent book ‘The Thank You Economy’ on how social media is affecting business operations. Some of his points are relevant to customer satisfaction and the psychology of gaining and keeping customers. Seven tips are covered including one on how social media can be used as a no charge, always available focus group.

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