Keeping Customers Happy

A customer's family was nearing the end of a mountain of presents last Christmas when the phone rang. The caller? Not a relative spreading holiday cheer, but a Federal Express customer service representative spending the day playing last-minute Santa. She held in her hand a package she thought could be a gift. Though the package didn't need to make it there in time for the holiday, it was the thought that counted. FedEx gained a customer for life with one phone call. More companies are catching on to the fact that investing in high-quality service will increase sales. Want to win loyal customers? Follow three steps: 

  1. Create an extensive program.

Much like FedEx, Compaq, the PC manufacturer, found it needed to cater more to its customers. Last year, Compaq executives decided to embark on a service program that resulted in a 10 percent improvement in customer satisfaction scores. 
Compaq was doing well in areas like operational performance, but interpersonal skills were weak, so managers focused on trying to involve customers more. Now Compaq service reps learn to look at customer problems in a broader sense rather than by just focusing on a specific problem. They now update customers on a job's status. 
Compaq's training involved two days in the classroom followed by 10 weeks of skills application training. The intensity of the training forced employees to focus on a different skill each week. 

2. Go back to fundamentals.

It may sound simple, but going back to the basics of good customer service is never a waste of time. For Compaq, those people skills needed the most attention, so that's where resources and training needed to be invested. 
It's a challenge to make every customer experience unique because the job can become repetitious. Reps are encouraged to involve customers along the way by explaining the roots of their problems and ways to prevent them from happening again. Gestures like this increase a customer's trust, making them more loyal for the brand in the end. 

3. Follow up.

The only way to know if your initiative is working is to ask the beneficiaries: your customers. This can be done with surveys or focus groups. So far, the results from Compaq's surveys are good, but there's still more to do.

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