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January 15, 2014
Create a Culture that Promotes Customer Satisfaction
 
Even though your company may have hundreds or thousands of customers, some large and some small, each deserves to be treated as your sole customer.
 
Remember that every customer wants to feel special. No one likes to be treated like a number or to receive form letters addressed to "Dear Customer" when he or she’s been a loyal customer for years. When customers experience poor service because they're considered "small" or when meetings are canceled because a high-priority customer calls, the customer relationship is in jeopardy. Every customer expects employees to be courteous, to know their personal nuances, and to answer questions in a clear and non-condescending manner. Perhaps most important, customers do not want to be taken for granted.
 
In all too many companies, however, no customer is treated as special. Companies often place policies and procedures ahead of customers. When employees are forced to choose between doing right by customers or doing what management wants, they often do the latter. That's why management must empower employees to break the rules when it's in the best interests of customers.
 
If organizations want to deliver service excellence, employees must learn the value of long-term customer relationships and understand the consequences of not properly servicing them. They must abandon the view that customers represent immediate sales transactions and a quick buck. Instead, they must view customers as long-term relationships, keeping in mind the potential business that these relationships will bring over the years. They must learn to see themselves through their customers' eyes rather than focusing inwardly. They must go beyond a selling role, offering value-added advice that recognizes their customers' ongoing needs. And, focus must be placed on expanding relationships with a few customers instead of living in a turnstile –– searching for new prospects one day only to lose them the next
 
Since superior customer service is as much a philosophy as an activity, it is important to discover just what kind of culture produces the mindset necessary to exceed customer satisfaction. Ask yourself:
  • Does my organization make policy changes to benefit its employees or the customer?
  • Does my company take customers for granted because they've "been around" for a long time?
  • Do my company's employees do their best work only after the competition has made inroads?
  • Do our employees know that customer satisfaction is their top priority?
  • Are my company's policies geared to the best interests of our customers or to profitability?
  • How well do I really understand my customers' businesses? How much do they know about mine?
  • Do I know why customers are happy or unhappy with my company's services? What steps have I taken to find out?
  • Am I accessible when my customers need me?
  • Do I treat my customers differently now than when I was courting them?
  • Am I so concerned about losing customers that I fear making innovative suggestions that might rock the boat?
  • Do I encourage and reward employee performance that is in the best interests of customers?
Remember, it is easier and five times cheaper to keep an existing customer than to recruit a new one. Treating each customer as your only customer brings far more long-term rewards than the "love 'em and leave 'em” attitude. Not only will you improve market share and reduce your marketing costs, but you will also improve employee morale. In the end, you'll feel good about yourself and know that your customers feel good about you. What can you do today to make your business more customer-centric?

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Frank is an award-winning author. He has written five books and over 300 articles. He was recently named one of “America's Top 100 Thought Leaders” and nominated as one of “America’s Most Influential Small Business Experts.” Frank has served on several boards and has consulted to some of the largest and most respected companies in the world. Additionally, FrankSonnenbergOnline was named among the “Best 21st Century Leadership Blogs.” Frank's latest book is "Follow Your Conscience," November 2014.
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