How to keep customers happy
Bad service is a major liability. Competition is fierce and if you don’t provide customers with excellent service, they will dump you after lambasting your brand via social media. We look at sure-fire ways to win your clients’ loyalty.
of years ago, many people bought their services and food on open markets. When the fish was not to your liking, you could yell at the useless fishmonger in public, and immediately spread the word among your fellow market-goers. Pretty soon, the fishmonger won’t have customers. This all changed with the emergence of the shop, and later, the shopping mall. Bad service became a solitary experience; you had to fight the store manager, or maybe the service representative, over the phone.
Enter the digital age, and essentially we’re back on the open market again. Through social media, you can voice your dissatisfaction to a large audience of potential clients. Mass marketing campaigns are becoming less effective: clients are bypassing companies and sharing their user experience and negative information about your products or services in an instant.
This is a huge risk to any business, and keeping customers happy has never been as crucial to the sustainability of a company.
Customer satisfaction and customer experience are key for any company that is serious about its clients.
Customer satisfaction (which includes customer service) refers to the difference between what consumers expect from a product or service, compared to what they think they actually received, says Adré Schreuder, CEO of the business research group Consulta and extraordinary professor in marketing research at the University of Pretoria. Schreuder is also founder and chair of the South African Customer Satisfaction Index (SAcsi), which measures how happy clients are with companies.
“Customer satisfaction has a scientifically proven high impact on the future growth of a business,” he says. Customer experience is a more recent development and takes it to an even more detailed level, which focuses on how clients enjoyed each moment of their interaction with a company (or not), says Schreuder. Larger corporations are now appointing chief customer experience officers, or chief customer officers, who have to ensure that everything the company does keeps the customer in mind. Every aspect of the company – its business strategy, new product design, processes, policies, HR, risk, etc. – is analysed to see how it impacts and benefits the customers.
Successful businesses have a clear customer experience strategy, and all their activities support it, says Schreuder. “But companies where there is a disconnect between the overall business goals and how the front-line staff ensure optimal customer experience, will struggle.”
He cites the examples of Capitec and Investec. Capitec has positioned itself as the no-frills and low-cost bank: “Its service is quick, friendly, concise, and to the point. You don’t wait long, you get helped quickly, and its online and digital processes give almost immediate credit clearance.” Capitec has one of the highest customer satisfaction scores in SA, according to the SAcsi.
Investec, which delivers a high-end, premium service, also has customer satisfaction results that are the best amongst high-end private banks, and is on par with and at times even higher than those of Capitec. Schreuder says Investec has aligned its staffing, processes and the entire company culture to its premium delivery promise and position in the market. “Investec staff will go out of their way to deliver on customer expectations, no matter how unique the request.”
Companies that have low satisfaction scores often compete with low prices, but they also promise their customers the world at prices that they most likely cannot deliver, creating more problems for themselves. “The [poorly trained] frontline staff don’t know if the service they should deliver must be quick and concise or whether they must go the extra mile, and processes are compromised in order to accommodate irate customers whose expectations are not being met,” says Schreuder. “In the end the business and the customer lose.”
What else can help deliver consumer satisfaction?
Capitec The bank has one of the highest customer satisfaction scores in SA.