By Erica Christoffer, Contributing Editor, REALTOR® Magazine
The Cult of the Customer
How do you create a consistently amazing customer service experience when your clients are used to ho-hum? Author Shep Hyken charts a path to take your business from just OK to revered by loyal customers in The Cult of the Customer (John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2009). Hyken uses real-life best practices from today’s most successful companies that can be applied across the sales industry. He also makes the correlation between employee satisfaction and customer experience as a means to build better business relationships. A rewarding work environment entices employees to go the extra mile, especially if it’s modeled by management. Hyken’s mantra is: “The happier your customers and employees are, the more successful your company will be.” The book outlines steps to changing a company’s culture for the better.
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FROM THE BOOK: 5 WAYS TO GAIN LOYAL CUSTOMERS
1. Consistency is key: Most businesses operate at a level of uncertainty with their clients. Service might be good, but it’s not great. Customers don’t always know what to expect. Employees may be lacking motivation or training. Customers may even say they are satisfied, but their return business is not guaranteed. People need multiple positive experiences in order to give you their loyalty. If there is a lack of consistency or a lack of process, business will suffer.
2. Gather everyone’s ideas: People have good ideas, so find out what they are. Create an atmosphere where all employees have an opportunity to provide input. Encourage sharing of stories — for example, set aside meeting time for employees to talk about positive customer interactions. Praise employees for participating. There must be a sense of belonging among employees to create consistent service; it strengthens retention and develops concern for quality experiences at all levels of the organization.
3. Do unto others: Managers and executives are models to team members as to how customers should be dealt with. The way employees are treated is an indication of how they’ll treat customers. Good service needs to start from the top down. Threatening, badgering or humiliating employees into providing consistently excellent service does not work. Stop finger pointing and placing blame. Instead, start a process that celebrates accomplishments. Managers should live out the form to follow every day.
4. Know the importance of “touch points” and “impact points”: These are interrelated aspects of business that need equal concentration. Every interaction with a client is a touch point — face-to-face meetings, e-mails, phone conversations, Web site interactions, etc. “Think of touch points as the chain of events that the customer experiences, with each item on the list being a link in the chain.” Impact points are the behind-the-scenes interaction and events (think of baggage handlers for an airline). Impact points are just as important as touch points because they also affect a customer’s experience. Businesses must constantly look for ways to improve both impact points and touch points to attain customer loyalty.
5. Look at problems as opportunities: Have you ever heard the expression, “life happens”? Unexpected problems come up, and they’re often no one’s fault. Take those times as an opportunity to make your business shine. Prove your willingness to go above and beyond by taking creative action on behalf of your client. Approach the situation as restoring confidence rather than merely fixing a problem. And even though doing the right thing may cost a little more, it may be the way to create a loyal customer.
“Imagine for a moment that you are driving in the fast lane on a major highway. If your car’s front end is out of alignment, the entire car may shake, and the ride can quickly become a dangerous one. Once the car gets its wheels aligned properly, going in a straight line is easy and smooth. It’s not so different in business. If the people on the front line don’t understand the underlying value promise that is made to the customer, the entire company can suffer. Once you do the work necessary to get everyone aligned with the right message that connects to what that value promises — the right mantra — you can make headway and start moving forward.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Shep Hyken founded Shepard Presentations in 1983 and works with businesses on customer service, customer loyalty, internal service, customer relations, and motivation. He has worked with hundreds of clients, ranging from Fortune 100-size organizations to companies with less than 50 employees. In addition to The Cult of the Customer, a Wall Street Journal best-seller, Hyken authored Moments of Magic, The Loyal Customer, and his articles have appeared in hundreds of publications. Hyken is a Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) and a recipient of the Council of Peers Award for Excellence by the National Speakers Association’s Speaker Hall of Fame. Find out more at www.hyken.com.