A test of customer relations
This article was first published as a Sanlam Cobalt Business Tips article. Sanlam great resources for entrepreneurs – I suggest you subscribe.
Take this light-hearted, but important test to see how your business is doing in providing great customer care.
- Do you have a written customer relations statement in any form – pledge, values, mission statement, incentive scheme, policy document or any other format?
- If yes, progress to question 2.
- If not, write down your understanding of the values and actions that your organisation believes in, or should believe in, then progress to question 2.
- Approach five random staff members or managers and ask them to tell you what is on the written document or in your notes. They do not need to be word perfect.
- If all of them get all or most of it right – full marks.
- If more than two of them get most of it right – half marks.
- If two or less of them get less than half of it right – fail. You may have failed the grade. Go back and start instilling a common culture of customer service in your organisation.
- Study the written statement or your notes and count the number of times you use the words ‘we’, ‘us’ or ‘I’. Then count the number of times ‘they’ ‘them’ ‘the customer’ are used.
- The entire document is written to reflect the perspective of the customer – full marks.
- The document is all or mainly about what you intend to do to facilitate customer service – fail. Customer service is not what you do; it is what the customer experiences. So all the good intentions in the world, and all the right actions are meaningless if the customer does not experience them as great customer service. Re-examine your customer relationships policies with that awareness.
- Are there any statements like ‘we strive to’ or similar in your policy?
- Yes, and each one has a target or goal for this year and we measure performance against it – full marks.
- Yes, but we do not have targets or measurements – fail. Nice idea, but you have a wish more than an objective, and no way of knowing whether you are making progress.
- No, but we do have performance measures in place and a continual improvement program – full marks, and a distinction for the continuous improvement program.
- No, we are doing all the right things but are not trying to get better – half marks. A static service level and consumers that are continually becoming more demanding, means you will be going backwards. Put in a continual improvement program.
- Have you measured your level of customer satisfaction directly with customers, by a survey or other mechanism?
- Yes, and we acted on the results – full marks.
- No, we know what our customers think – fail. No, you probably don’t know what they think, because you are hearing what you want to hear. Go out and ask them directly. Simple surveys, direct questions or specific research will give factual answers.
So how did you rate? Excellent customer service is difficult to achieve, but it is your most powerful competitive advantage. Keep working to improve and your customers will stay, and bring others to buy from you. No other activity, including marketing can do the same as easily and inexpensively.
©copyright Ed Hatton. All rights reserved. You may republish this article or extracts from it provided you acknowledge me as the author and acknowledge my copyright.