Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Improve Customer Satisfaction

From today's "DM News": Customer satisfaction down again
"Overall customer satisfaction declined in the fourth quarter of 2007, marking two subsequent quarters in which a decline was posted, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index, released today by the University of Michigan.

In the fourth quarter, the index fell to 74.9 on the ACSI's 100-point scale, down 0.4% from the previous quarter. This news, combined with increasing unemployment, declining house prices, tighter credit, high levels of household debt and rising fuel and food prices is likely to pose challenges this quarter for consumer spending growth, according to the ACSI."
Here's the question I pose today: Is customer service related to the economy? Will, as the article contends, low customer satisfaction equate to less consumer spending?

If so, then it's critical that companies get focused on their customer. Today--not tomorrow.

I'm a firm believer that we can do lots to improve the customer experience, even without spending an enormous amount of money. A couple of no/low cost ideas come to mind:

  1. Empower your front-line employees to solve problems. Let cashiers, for example, extend a small discount if a customer wants to buy slightly damaged merchandise. Let the customer service rep extend the web discount, even if the prospective customer called in for service. By empowering the people who talk to your customers, you're solving a problem quickly, making your customer and your employee feel more valued--and those are always keys to satisfaction.
  2. Mine your customer database to understand exactly who ARE your most valuable customers. Whether it's in terms of longevity (how long they've been with you) or how much they've spent or how often they buy, make sure you have a handle on just who are your best customers. Then, when you have a handle on this metric, make sure you treat these folks with extra special service. These are the people you definitely don't want to defect to your competitor. So, implement programs designed to show these high-value customers that you care.

We believe that it's always important to keep customers happy. In these crazy economic times, it's crucial.


Ted Grigg said...

I agree with you that a lot can be done with customer service without spending a lot of money.

But I think the problem goes even deeper than better customer service programs.

How can employees improve customer service when they themselves feel mistreated or overlooked by management?

Employees who fear for their jobs or do not sense loyalty from their employers have a hard time extending excellent customer service when they feel abused by their own companies.

First, take care of your employees. This will then enable them to take care of the customer.

Nancy Arter said...

I agree with you, Ted. Happy employees have a lot to do with creating happy customers -- that's for certain. And unhappy employees can wreak havoc on creating excellent customer satisfaction.

Every time I've had a positive customer experience it has been because the employee truly cared about my situation and what they did for a living. Hopefully, this was because their company cared about them and treated them right.