A satisfied customer is good: A loyal one is better

Your customer satisfaction surveys keep coming back “satisfied” or “very satisfied,” but you still have the nagging feeling you’re not getting all the repeat business you could. What’s the problem?

A satisfied customer may come back, but could just as easily go to a competitor. After all, satisfactory service is a dime a dozen, and if your customers can get a dozen for 9 1/2 cents, why wouldn’t they?

Loyal customers, on the other hand, wouldn’t switch even if your competitor offered a dozen for 8 cents or 7. And they’ll tell all of their friends about your company, too.

Here are six ways to create loyal customers:

1. Put your smile out front

From a customer service perspective, the receptionist is the most important person in your organization. This is because he or she will help your customers form their first impression about your company. Is your business caring and customer-oriented? Is it a place that will foster friendly, enthusiastic front-line employees? Spend at least as much time on customer training as you do on company training.

2. Remember who’s boss

Who is the boss? Not the president or CEO. They may sign the paychecks, but the money is put there by the customers. Put another way, the food on your family’s dinner table is put there by your customer.

What’s the best way to learn to treat your customer like the boss? Become the customer. Once a month, phone your own company and try to get service or get through to upper management. How are you treated? How would you like to have been treated?

3. Focus on retention, not recruitment

It takes a lot more time, energy and money to make a new customer than to retain one. Are you spending more on advertising to recruit potential customers than on your customer service program to retain and foster loyal customers? If so, why?

4. Know where the buck stops

Where does the buck stop in your company? Who has the power to make customer loyalty decisions? The answer should be, “Everyone who has contact with the customer.”

Erase the phrase, “Sorry, it’s company policy.” Make it second nature for your sales staff and front-line people to create loyal customers. Make a list of the most common reasons customers contact your company, and list the very best responses to their questions or concerns. Post them wherever front-line people can see them.

The only answer a front-line person should not be able to give the customer without involving a manager is “no.”

5. Let them eat cake

If they ask for bread, that is. If they ask for cake, give them ice cream, too.

Look at every place your company offers customers a stock response, a business-as-usual process, a satisfactory service, and see it as an opportunity to create competitive advantage.

Don’t ask, “What can we do for our customers?” Ask, “What more can we do for our customers?” If you give them the service they expect, you’ll get a satisfied customer. If you give them a pleasant surprise and exceed their expectations, you’ll get a loyal customer.

6. Turn complaints around

A complaint is an opportunity to create a loyal customer. The first two words out of your employees’ mouths when they hear a customer complaint should be “Thank you.” “Thank you for letting us know about …” The next words should be an apology and an immediate remedy.