In this electronic age, everyone is talking about the importance of excellent, genuine customer service in generating and maintaining healthy, profitable business.
Sadly, the majority are only really paying lip service to what is required. To give great customer service, you must know what your clients need, want, expect, deserve and demand. How do you find that out? The simple answer is to survey them.
I am dismayed in my sessions when virtually everyone admits they don't survey their clients, or that they have done it as a one-off. I've had the good fortune to work with and research some of the best businesses in the world and they invariably have ongoing survey programs in place.
From Carl Sewell, author of Customers for Life and the number one Cadillac dealer in the US, a company where only a 90-plus per cent customer service rating is acceptable from salespeople; to my long-term friend who took an entire North American franchise group to a 98 per cent customer service rating and maintained it for 10 years; we can certainly learn a lot from the most successful businesses.
Surveying shouldn't just include those who will spend money with you. Firstly, survey the most important people – your staff and colleagues. Once you have discovered their wants, needs and problems, then satisfied and solved them, they will be happy, committed and supportive.
You can then use a survey program for your clients. The results can be quite amazing and sometimes immediate. A group I worked with in Victoria achieved 50 new property managements purely by sending out a survey.
Their clients thought, 'No one else has done this – these people obviously care (and that is the key word to all genuine customer service), so we’ll give them our other properties to manage as well' – how powerful!
This is really important: do not rush out and do a one-off survey without anyone knowing the results – it will mean nothing.
These are some suggested steps to follow:
- Send the survey – 'We would like to give you the best customer service possible and to do that, we need your advice/help.'
- Once you have received the responses (you can increase the number by offering incentives and/or phoning clients and offering to take details over the phone for those who feel they don't have time to complete the survey), then thank your entire database for their feedback and suggestions – not just the respondents.
- Promise to advise them of the outcome and give the exact date. This is so important! If people are surveyed and they never find out what happened, they will never bother again and you will go down in their estimation, even though you felt you were doing something positive.
- Reply with the outcome/results before the date given.
- Advise them of the next survey (e.g. in three/six months) – with the exact date, so they will be able to tell you if service has improved as a result of their suggestions, making them an integral part of the whole process.
- Send the next survey before that date – 'As promised…'
The added benefit is that along the way you will build a perception that you can be trusted and that you always keep your promises. Those two little words "as promised" are very powerful.