Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Customer Loyalty and Transparency

I am still amazed at how a customer has to complain before they qualify for the “better deal”. For example, I have been a customer with the natural gas utility company for over 25 years . Our payment history shows timely payment for those years. After receiving our last bill, I called to question the 100% increase from the prior month. I knew it had been colder and we had been at home more due to snow, however the large increase was still surprising. The customer service representative was very thorough in her explanation and I was a calm and receptive customer.

Here’s the issue – after coming to grips that the bill was accurate, she finally offered me the “better deal”. The company has a locked-in per therm rate which would have saved me over $100 on the bill in question. The locked-in rate is offered for 6, 12 or 18 months time periods. I am a savvy customer and I had never heard of this option. I am familiar with budget billing but not a lower per therm rate for a fixed period of time.

So, exactly when does a customer find out about this? Does it really mean calling to complain, and question a bill before I get this info? Again, I am a loyal customer with an impeccable payment record, this strategy does not make sense to me. Loyalty is at stake here, there are other natural gas providers I can choose from. Don't your best customers deserve the best treatment. Your best customers deserve good information to make informed decisions.

Are you guilty of having great offers but not telling your customers until they complain to you? Is it up to the customer to have an issue before they are informed of options? Are some of those options mostly used to lure the new customer but not offered to the long time loyal one? Don’t risk losing a customer due to your reluctance to share valuable information. Customers don’t like to think you are hiding from them, or worse taking advantage of them.

Be transparent. Be proactive. Show the customer you value them.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Customers Don’t Want Resolutions -- Just Action.

It is the time for New Year’s resolutions. Personally I am not a huge fan.
However, I am a fan of solid reality based goals and actions that match. Customers want companies to deliver and differentiate.

Here are recent statistics that prove customer service will improve your
bottom line. American Express reported that US consumers will spend 9%
more with companies that provide great service. 81% of Americans are
likely to give a company repeat business after a good service experience.
And 51% are likely never to do business with a company again after a
poor experience.

RightNow Technologies research shows that customer service is the most
influential thing a company can do to increase customer advocacy. 55%
of customers recommend a company because of its customer service. And
79% of customers that had a negative experience told others about it. It is
amazing to think what negative experiences and word of mouth can to do
your reputation and business.

The lessons from these statistics - Deliver an incredible service
experience, your customers will return, refer to you and even pay more.
Seems like a great way to start the year.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Average, mediocre and “look alike” customer service will not gain customer loyalty.

The new year is traditionally the time to re-focus and get serious about
goals. For customer loyalty, your customer experience better be at the top
of your goal list. Over the last few years, customers have made it clear
they want a relationship and a memorable experience.

Creating loyal, engaged customers is harder than ever. Here are strategies
to kick up your service experience.

1. Deliver service “their” way. Utilize many channels of access.
Customers want service on their terms and on their time-line. Access
means be available and responsive via a phone rep, your website,
email, Facebook, Twitter, live chat and even a phone app. Make
certain these make real connections and can create a relationship.

2. Be open and clear. You can’t hide from today’s customer. The
company must be transparent. With just a few clicks, the customer can
find out what others are saying about you. Join in the conversation on
Facebook and Twitter. Be fast, honest and responsive.

3. Be passionate. Engaged and passionate employees will create
customer loyalty. A 2009 research report by Gallup found that
companies in the upper half of both customer and employee
engagement got a 240% boost in bottom line results. Customers don’t
want dispassionate, robotic, scripted service delivery. Hire and train
well, then your employees can be “real” and sincere.

Add value and create an experience. In some cases that means just
make it simple. It means, captivate and fascinate. Do it all and
your customer will happily return and say positive things about you.
Value and a great experience are not new, yet many companies still
don’t get it. Be the company who does get it and executes accordingly.

Figuring out what customers want is not always easy. Yet not figuring it
out will affect your bottom line tremendously. It is time to re-focus and
renew your energy and efforts on the customer.