Customer Mistakes

Anyone who runs a business or nonprofit organization understands that the customers, clients or donors are the ones who pay the bills.  A mistake some organizations make is when they reach some level of success, they let up on pushing the organization forward and coast on prior achievements. They seem to forget about those things that they did to get to where they are.  For example, have you ever gone to a new restaurant right after it opened, had great service, great food and an overall great experience?  And then fast forward a year or two down the road and wonder what happened because the quality that the restaurant opened with seemed to have faded away?  This can be a very dangerous spot to be in because if an organization is not constantly improving what they do and how they do it, a competitor will quickly come along and do it better.  I find it painful to watch organizations that once did a really good job get lax and allow systems and process to go backwards.  

Does your organization make any of these 10 customer mistakes?

1.  The Way You Communicate

There has been lots and lots of training on communication process and style, yet it is still quite common to interact with a customer service person who is rude, inept and careless in their delivery of the service. Teaching employees basic telephone skills, communication skills and developing customer service standards are what helps support a great communication process for employees who interact with customers.

2.  The Way You Don’t Communicate

Not communicating effectively can be as damaging as communicating poorly.  There is certain information that customers need to know to stay engaged.  Not communicating key information that adds value to the customer experience is a mistake and can cost you customers.  For example, if you are a retail store that is open every day of the week but is scheduled to close for one of the holidays, the customer should be given ample notice of the store closure, including when it will reopen.  This kind of proactive communication lets the customer know that they are valued and it also protects employees from unnecessary customer complaints.

3.  Processes are Not Customer Friendly

Customers are in a hurry and don’t want to waste their time trying to figure out how to get to your products or services.  Making it easy for them to navigate your website or find their way to your office with good signage is important to creating a positive customer experience.  This includes developing easy processes for customers to purchase products, pay bills or communicate with the organization.

4.  Poor Product Quality

When someone makes a purchase of a product or service they have a basic expectation that the quality will be good and will correspond with the price they paid for it.  People also understand that the quality will be different for varying levels of products.  For example, a customer would expect the quality of a hamburger at a McDonald's to be very different from the quality of a burger when you go to a place like the Burger Bar - their product lines are not comparable.  But if you go to McDonald's and they have “re-fried” the french fries to heat them up because it is in between busy hours, they are not meeting the basic expectation for that particular product.  Quality products should be the highest priority for any business and creating processes to prevent errors should be the goal.

5.  Poor Service After the Sale

Service after a sale is a great way to gauge how committed an organization is to the customer experience.  Friendly return policies and follow through on product repair are critical to sustaining a customer base.  Everyone knows that there are people who take advantage of customer-friendly return policies but successful retailers understand that the cost of losing a good customer is greater than dealing with the occasional shopper who pushes the policies to the limit.  For example, my daughter got married a few years ago and made a conscious decision to NOT do a wedding registry at Target because their return policies are so difficult.  She registered at Bed Bath and Beyond because they have a very customer friendly return policy.  Which retailer do you think is losing out here?

6.  Lack the Personal Touch

A personal touch added to any interaction helps to engage the customer and communicates that they are more than a number or a name on a page.  There is a lot of research to support that we all like to hear the sound of our name.  When someone calls you by name it makes a personal connection and makes you feel valued.  I have a friend who works the counter of a dry cleaners.  She has an incredible memory and takes pride in remembering all the customers by name - as well as their home addresses!  This is the kind of personal touch that people remember and come back to experience.

7.  The Presentation of the Organization

The way your organization presents itself communicates a lot to the customer.  If you have a brick and mortar building, it should be a neat, clean and updated facility.  If you have an on-line business, your website should be easy to navigate and the content current and accurate. This helps to communicate credibility and professionalism to the paying customer.  Take a few minutes and walk through the eyes of a customer.  Park on the lot, walk through the reception area, go through the restrooms or if you have a website, ask someone to look at it and try to navigate through the pages.  You will learn a lot!

8.  Not Offering Products the Customer Wants

Customer expectations are changing rapidly and what customers wanted and expected in products and services just a few years ago is different from what they want today.  As an example, I would not have expected to find healthy options on restaurant menus five or ten years ago.  Today, however, I really appreciate when restaurants offer healthy choices.  Does that mean I wouldn’t eat there if they don’t - no not necessarily, but if I’m choosing between a couple and know one that does I will choose that one.  Understanding the needs and expectations of customers is an important part of great customer service.  Tracking customer satisfaction, encouraging the use of customer comment cards, performing customer focus groups and developing products based on customer input is a great way to stay ahead of the competition.

9.  Getting Annoyed When Customers Complain

As hard as most organizations try, the inevitable grumbling customer comes along - despite efforts to make everyone happy.  Organizations that dismiss customer complaints are missing out on some valuable, free advice for how to make the organization better.  We’ve all heard the statistics that only 4% of upset customers take the time and effort to complain which is why we should thank even the grumpy customers for bringing issues to our attention.  Without that honest feedback we would not be able to improve our products and services.

10.  Inconsistency in Practice

Consistency in practice is the foundation for great quality products and services.  Consistency in how a product is developed, manufactured and delivered can be the very thing that sets an expectation for quality from a paying customer.  I am often disappointed when I shop at a retailer, engage with a friendly, helpful employee, have a great experience only to return to the same shop and encounter a completely different experience.  Consistency in practice is created by having great processes, thorough training and performance management systems for those employees responsible for creating and delivering the customer products and services.

It takes too much time, effort and money to establish a strong customer base which is why organizations need to take the time to evaluate their systems and processes that deliver the products and services.  Every step that is taken to avoid these critical mistakes helps to solidify and enhance the customer relationship.  In these hard economic times, doing these ten things right can only help to sustain and grow a business!

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