Even in a time of uncertainty where markets are shrinking, some organisations can continue to find opportunity and growth. The secret is in caring for a precious asset your organisation already has: your customers. Carolyn Blunt tells us how.
Customer-centric organisations have more than just a feel-good culture. When properly implemented, customer-centricity is a model that impacts upon a business’s processes, culture, and technology. Customer-centric strategies work by making customers a central focal point, around which the organisation structures its operations. The goal is not only to deliver a more satisfying customer experience, but to provide greater customer insight and value to the business.
Here are five practical tips to focus on your existing customers:
1. Get closer to your customers
Know them so you can position products and services more effectively to win more business. Share role-appropriate customer information and profiling with staff.
As part of your CRM strategy and utilising your system technology your agents can be trained to engage customers in healthy rapport and ask helpful questions that customers are happy to answer. Cross-selling and up-selling are basic techniques that any sales advisors should be properly trained in.
2. Less is more
Fewer call contacts of better quality and efficiency are preferred by your customers and are more cost effective for you. Are system call notes the best they can be? Are advisors trained to use the system effectively so data is properly captured and quality checked first time around?
Simple techniques such as using the phonetic alphabet  and repeating back numbers and post codes can avoid problems and delays. At shift changes do your advisors update each other about on-going customer issues effectively?
3. Tell it to me straight
Ask for customer feedback and really listen to what they tell you. The average business doesn’t hear from 96 per cent of its unhappy customers.
For every complaint received, on average, there will be at least 26 other customers with problems, 6 of which will be serious ones. People do not think complaining is worth the time and effort or else they don’t know where or how to complain or they don’t think anything will happen as a result of their complaint.
Non-complainers are the least likely group to buy from the organisation again. 65-90 per cent of them will never come back and the organisation will never know why. Satisfactory handling of complaints means that 54 per cent of customers will buy again. If the complaint is handled quickly and efficiently this rises to 80-95 per cent. The customer who gains a satisfactory outcome to a complaint is unlikely to continue to hold the complaint against the organisation.
Building rapport and using customer service techniques gives you the opportunity to find out customers’ likes and dislikes to avoid complaints, but if complaints do arise, the customer should feel comfortable and confident about telling you. This gives you a chance to redeem your organisation, that otherwise may have been missed, so welcome those complaints!
4. Check the BEAT (BEhaviours and ATtitudes)
Your front line staff create the impression of your organisation to customers, and need to be properly trained, supported and managed to do so well. Key BEATs to develop include:
- Communication – how well do your advisors listen, enunciate and respond to customers? Check the energy, articulation and speed of their speech and conduct coaching with played-back calls where needed. (If you can’t play back calls then try using a second headset and a simple Dictaphone.)
- Flexibility – do your advisors flex their approach effectively to different callers? For example, an older lady needs the advisor to speak more slowly and clearly and requires a patient and empathetic approach. A time-pushed thirty-something male wants the transaction completed quickly and professionally.
- Pro-activity – your callers call for a reason. How well do your advisors handle their requests? Solving queries quickly at the first line significantly increases customer satisfaction. For this to happen more do your advisors need more empowerment, more training?
Passing callers from one section to another does not go down well, but if it is essential then ensure your advisors are trained to feed information to their colleague on behalf of the customer – having to repeat themselves increases the frustration of even the coolest customer. Consider how knowledgeable your advisors are in products and services. Their ability to solve problems at the front line is crucial to the customer having a positive experience. If this can’t be done they must take ownership of the issue and do all the chasing and updating of the customer thereafter.
If your advisors are not permitted to make outgoing calls it may be worth a review of this policy, or else you need to be totally satisfied that pro-active customer updates are happening by your dedicated team as and when they should be.
5. Experience it for yourself
If you don’t already make calls to your own call centre then now is a good time to start. By experiencing what it actually feels like to go through your IVR system, what your call centre sounds like down the telephone and the energy, empathy and knowledge of your advisors you can identify improvements for your customers. Customers want an efficient, easy experience – if your organisation doesn’t give it to them they may find someone who will. Training and coaching your advisors is critical to delivering what customers want and need.
Finally, remember: Who Cares Wins! Failure to keep a focus on customer needs and experience could severely increase the long-term detrimental impact for your organisation.
Your hard-earned customer relationships could be quickly lost if you provide inferior service due to cost cutting.
Carolyn Blunt is a contact centre and customer service training expert with Real Results Training. You can contact Carolyn on 0161 408 2003 or www.real-results.co.uk
 You can download free monitor cards from the www.real-results.co.uk website.