Are Your Customers Really Satisfied With You?
I have a real problem with the terms “customer service” and “customer satisfaction.” In my humble opinion, those are two of the most overused phrases in all of business. They were born good phrases, but they went bad somewhere along the way. Shame on us as consumers for not speaking out against bad service. Shame on many businesses for misleading customers about having great customer service. We don’t really know what those two phrases mean anymore. Everywhere we look these days, a company is claiming to be great at customer service — but rarely is that ever true. In most cases, claiming you are the “best” merely means you were probably the least offensive of the companies surveyed. Well, every revolution starts with one person or one idea — and I say, “Now is the time for the customer satisfaction revolution.”
Before we can improve customer service or customer satisfaction, we must clearly define what these terms mean. These phrases are often used interchangeably, but they are not the same — they’re not even synonymous. Customer satisfaction is the ultimate goal, the brass ring, if you will. It is an exalted level of trusted advisor status that only a handful of companies ever achieve with customers. It is a difficult (and in some cases impossible) state of relationship to reach. Regardless of the difficulty of this challenge, it has to be the goal of every business. A business does not have the right to declare customer satisfaction. Only the customer has that right. Businesses have to determine the factors that are most likely to produce customer satisfaction and actively measure them.
Customer service is a philosophy that a business must live by in order to achieve customer satisfaction. It is not a single task, person, response form, computer, piece of software, whiteboard, or any other single business tool. It is a philosophy that must be practiced by every person in an organization. It’s putting yourself in your customers’ shoes.
Then there’s CRM (customer relationship management). Most of us are familiar with the term CRM. However, when asked about their CRM programs, many VARs immediately think of software such as SalesLogix, Siebel, Microsoft CRM, or even open-source applications such as Sugar. CRM is a fancy term for what good businesspeople have been doing for hundreds of years — that’s knowing their customers, giving them what they want, when they want it, at a fair price. Sometimes, businesses may have to make a sacrifice to keep a customer satisfied. In some cases, a customer can’t be satisfied, and it’s up to you to cut that customer loose.
CRM is not a software application. However, there are software applications to assist your CRM efforts. I get the biggest kick out of companies with bad customer service that think they will improve customer satisfaction by adding a CRM application. I contend that throwing technology at a bad process will only make it worse.
Fix your attitude toward customer service first. Then apply tools such as software applications to help manage those relationships. And remember to measure, measure, and measure customer satisfaction. How? Just pick up the phone, call (don’t e-mail) your customer, and ask them if you are doing a good job of meeting their needs. Pick three to five simple questions to ask your customer. I doubt you will get to the third question before you hear something that will surprise you.
When was the last time a customer called to tell you about a positive experience with your company? Are you doing everything in your power to make it easy for them to speak openly with you? If not, why not? If that hasn’t happened in a while, maybe it’s time to change your customer service philosophy.
VARs are always looking for ways to grow sales and improve margins. Don’t overlook one of the most obvious — keep the customers you already have. Now is the time for VARs to distinguish themselves as customer service superstars. The revolution starts here and now.