Are your trousers too tight?
By Caroline Cooper
Friday, 19th July 2013
So what exactly have tight trousers to do with customer service or the customer experience?

Well, you know, don't you, when you have a problem with your weight before you get on the scales, because your trousers start to feel tight?.

And when this happened you have three options:
  • Denial – blame the washing machine for shrinking them and ignore the signs, carrying on as before until they get so tight they're uncomfortable and you look like a pudding as you walk.
  • Defeat – just accept that as you get older you're going to put on weight and use it as an excuse to go and buy a new wardrobe.
  • Do something about it – acknowledge the signs and take action before it becomes too extreme and potentially irreversible.
And the same can be said of your customers' experience….
  • Denial – You can ignore the signs and blame the customer for their poor judgement, or a third party for messing up
  • Defeat – You can say that's just the way we do things around here, and change your aspirations for a different or less discerning market.
  • Do something – Or you can read the signs and take some action.
But….. there's a problem.

Unlike tight trousers it's not always immediately obvious there's something wrong. Well, that is not until it's got to a stage when it's damaging your business. So, what to do?

Here are 5 things you can be doing to avoid this...

1. Define your customer service values
This way it's so much easier for you and your team to measure and pick up if there's anything amiss. Once you understand your values and expectations you've something against which to benchmark your business.

2. Take your whole customer journey
Do a periodic walk through of your customer journey and conduct a self audit against a checklist with measurable criteria for each stage. Don't forget your customers' journey starts way before they step into your premises. What's the experience they have online, phoning you*, finding your venue? What's the experience they have after the event or sale?

Take the journey regularly and involve your team as they'll pick up on things you become blinkered to.

* Take a look at the findings from a survey conducted by local business Arbell across 2000 businesses to assess how many calls were missed – it makes scary reading when we think about the potential lost business and the impact on the customer experience… www.arbell.co.uk/downloads/SurveyResults2012.pdf

3. Monitor your customers' reaction
Be observant and spot problems before it's too late.

A regular order that's less than normal, a frequent customer who hasn't visited for a while, clients not returning your calls, a change in tone from a customer, increased complaints on a particular product or service, picking up on non-verbal cues or a throw away comment that the customer isn't completely happy.

4. Ask your customers for feedback
Seek feedback from those whose opinion is important to you. Not your family and friends (unless of course they are representative of your customers) but your most valuable customers. Not those low grade customers who generate little or no profit and require maximum effort on your part, but those customers you'd love to have more of; the high profit, low maintenance customers. It's their opinion you should be seeking.

Not from a questionnaire, but talk to them. Pick up the phone or invite them for a coffee and find out what they value, what frustrates them and what they'd like you to do more of (or less).

5. Test and measure
If you're tracking your numbers you'll soon know when things are not right. It won't necessarily tell you why, but at least it should set the alarms bells ringing so you can investigate. Putting it down to "the market is slow at the moment" or "the competition" won't rectify the problem.

Make service your key point of differentiation and find a way to wow your customers so they stay naturally loyal to YOU, and keep coming back whatever the market or the competition is up to.

So there we have it; five (relatively) easy ways to pick up on potential customer experience issues before they give you a ‘tight trouser' problem. If you need help with this, drop me an email to caroline@naturallyloyal.com and we can discuss how to do this for best results and biggest impact.

Caroline Cooper is founder of Naturally Loyal who helps businesses to get more sales through their existing customers. Caroline specialises in working with hospitality, tourism and leisure businesses, helping them build loyalty through giving customers outstanding experiences and staying on their radar to trigger repeat business. She is author of the ‘Hotel Success Handbook'.
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