Key Ingredients for Lasting Relationships
by Denise Ciardello
Peter Drucker famously wrote in The Practice of Management that the purpose of a business is to create and keep a customer. Unfortunately, the latter of these is often overlooked. With the papers, online content and mailers filled with so many ways to attract new customers, what businesses tend to forget is that they spend almost three times as much on attracting new customers than retaining the customers they already have.
Every business has a culture, and the culture defines whether the office is customer, time or technology-focused, along with a sense of negativity or an attitude of joy. The standards and values of the team can become apparent to a customer as soon as the phone is answered. When the emphasis of the office is placed on exceptional customer care, the team becomes an asset that will continue to grow the business over time. The significance of creating greater customer satisfaction begins with a total team approach.
The following three ingredients form the secret sauce to create an office environment that generates raving fans, in turn developing an organic marketing strategy that brings in friends and family of your satisfied customers.
Customer service is the first step in effective marketing. When a customer walks in your office door, how do they feel? Is it cold and sterile or warm and inviting? Do you look up and smile when a customer enters? Do you realize that you can change someone’s entire outlook with a simple smile?
Personal touches, like shaking hands and individual greetings provide an immediate differentiator and project a form of professionalism that people expect from a business encounter. By ensuring that someone feels like you are glad that they are there, they will only leave your facility feeling happy — and even better — they will go tell all their friends.
A major complaint from customers is the wasted time they spend in a waiting room or lobby prior to a scheduled meeting. Customers do not enjoy being forced to wait without knowing the reasons for the delay or how long the delay will be. These long waits may be interpreted as a sign of disrespect for the time and efforts your clients and customers spend to ensure their calendars are clear.
Staying on schedule (or close to it) is a major factor in customer retention — perhaps even one of the biggest. There is a clear message of “indifference” that flows when people frequently experience long wait times.
Businesses should work to prevent delays by avoiding overbooking appointments and advising their clients and customers on the nature and length of delays. By merely explaining to a customer that the office is running about five minutes behind, it can immediately diffuse any anger or frustration. Be honest with the patrons as soon as you know there will be a wait time.
Focus on professionalism
This area is lacking in so many businesses. Is it because our society has become so casual and that is getting mixed up with how to remain professional? Here are a few parts of professionalism that a business may want to focus on:
- Dress appropriately —Your workplace attire may or may not include wearing a suit and tie, but you are still a professional. Whether you have to dress up for work, you wear a uniform or you wear scrubs, your appearance should always be neat and clean. A wrinkled outfit looks no better than a pair of ripped jeans. Wear the type of clothing your employer requires and take pride in what you are wearing.
- Don’t hide from your mistakes — As hard as it may be to do, take ownership of your mistakes and do your best to correct them. Try not to make the same one twice. Never blame others, but set an example so that those who shared in the mistake can step forward and admit it. By the same token, don’t constantly call others out on their mistakes; rather, help to teach them the right way.
- Be a team player — A true professional is willing to help his or her co-workers when they are overburdened. He or she isn’t afraid to share knowledge, opinions or simply an extra pair of hands. One person’s success reflects well on everyone in his or her workplace.
Every facet of your business — large and small — is important and customers will always appreciate excellent customer service. While you put so much emphasis on the new customer, what about the returning customers? You need to woo each one equally. Give that personal attention that everyone longs for in every aspect of their lives. Treat customers with respect at all times. If you maintain a culture of respect, your customers will know that they are truly being well cared for. Stay on time; work together as a team to maintain that time schedule and when someone falls behind, let the customer know that there will be a wait.
Conduct yourself in a professional manner at all times; this includes how you look, what you say and how you treat others. Keep an open line of communication with your clients, and ensure prompt attention to any issues that may arise.
It doesn’t take a lot to create the secret sauce to customer retention — it just takes consistency and attention to detail. Most importantly, it takes a team.
Denise Ciardello is the co-founder of Global Team Solutions (GTS), an accomplished speaker, and author of the Office Management Gems series. Through her engaging keynotes and consulting, Denise provides unique insight, creativity, and humor for her clients. Her industry distinctions include serving as president of the Academy of Dental Management Consultants and membership in the National Speakers Association, and Toastmasters International. For more information on Denise Ciardello, please visit: www.GTSGurus.com.