How can we expect loyalty from our customers?
At first glance, customers can appear to be fickle, quite often flitting between suppliers based on the whim of a better deal or price. I probably don’t need to tell you that there are typically up to ten wholesalers in most major town and cities. Competition is tough and ever-present. Besides the more traditional ‘trade counter, telephone sales’ operation of the electrical wholesaler there is also the relatively new entrants such a Screwfix and Toolstation, not to mention the online choice across the internet – all vying to take away your piece of the electrical pie!
The key question must be – how can we expect loyalty from our customers and, more importantly, maintain the life cycle of the relationship? The pressure from our customers to continually drive the price downwards (and therefore margin) can sometimes make us feel that we have little or no control over our business as we respond to their demands.
However, for those businesses that truly focus on providing a great customer experience, these obstacles can be met and overcome.
Now let us be clear that great customer service is not just about saying please and thank you (although very important), it’s about putting a customer service strategy in place that gives the customer a compelling reason as to why he should do business with you. One that makes your offer so persuasive that it has the added bonus of being a barrier to your competitors -and one that begins to build loyalty and trust that lies at the heart of great business relationships.
Delivering an excellent Customer Service Proposition has to be embraced by all – from the Managing Director to the van driver; perhaps easier said than done. Most businesses would argue that they have a core of so-called loyal customers but how many of these relationships are based on price rather than value?
To be able to deliver excellent customer service involves a consistent and challenging approach the continues to push the boundaries of the customer experience. If we measure the success of our relationships based purely on key commercial elements, then, in essence, we are not really offering that much different and we are leaving ourselves open to the next ‘new kid on the block’ who piles it high and sells it cheap and that allows the customer to jump at the earliest opportunity.
Clearly, I’m not saying that we mustn’t be competitive and offer value. Nevertheless, it is the people within an organisation and the customer service strategy you develop that really set you apart from your competition. People are the face of the company and are responsible for delivering your vision and values. Poorly trained, not managed or appropriately motivated, they can impact the customer service experience beyond repair. We only have to look at our own retail purchasing experiences in our own lives to know that the biggest and (seemingly) cheapest is not always the best. They may well get our custom for a period of time or for the length of the offer – but very rarely will solicit our ongoing and continuing support for many years to come.
Training and development of our people is critical to building the skill sets needed to deliver great service consistently. And you’ll notice that I use the word ‘deliver’ as though it were a hard and fast product. Well, it is! It’s a product that only you and your people have control of and one, when done correctly, consistently, passionately and with a desire to be ‘never satisfied’ with your service, is very hard, if not impossible, to replicate.
If you’re looking to develop your people to deliver great customer service or want to explore how you might build your own, unique, bespoke Customer Service strategy, then please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org