For many customer-facing workers, it is sometimes easy to lose sight of the bigger picture. The tendency is to approach each customer interaction as though it were an isolated incident, handle it, and move on to the next customer or issue. Whenever you find yourselves falling into this pattern, you should take a moment to step back and think about why you’re doing what you’re doing, and where your activities fit in the wider view.
Usually, if you look at the big picture, you will realize that a customer service interaction is not an event, but part of a process. Each interaction you have with a customer is not an isolated occurrence, but instead it’s a stage in a larger cycle.
The Cycle of Business
The tide comes in, the tide goes out; the sun rises and sets – or so we all hope. Customers buy, and then hopefully they will want to come back to buy again. However, it’s what happens in between that buying cycle that counts the most. The customers must be satisfied with the service they receive or they’ll not only switch vendors, but ultimately bad mouth the vendor providing the bad service along the way. And as you’ve probably aware, bad news travels in 8’s and good news in 4’s.
The entire purpose of delivering quality customer service is to ensure that customers are satisfied – and the purpose of satisfying customers is to ensure that they will come back. Your job is really to create repeat customers, and to generate positive word of mouth so that more customers will join them.
When you sell a product or deliver a service with only your own perspective in mind, you tend to think of that interaction’s conclusion as the end of the story. In a retail environment, a customer enters a store, buys something, and then leaves. From the perspective of the retailer, it’s easy to see this as a single occurrence in which a customer appeared, money was exchanged, and the customer disappeared.
But for the customer, the retail store is an ever-present option when they have a need. Their experience with the store, with its products and employees, will determine whether or not they choose that retailer again in the future. The customer has not disappeared – they still exist – but they might, in fact, never return if they are not satisfied.
This is why our focus should be on meeting the customer’s needs from their perspective, and with a business cycle mindset. The customer experiences their interactions with our organization as a continuous relationship, and our real job is to keep that relationship alive.
Feeding the Cycle
If you recognize that your organization’s relationship with the customer is – or should be – continuous, it becomes clear that it is in your best interests to keep the cycle going, to encourage and feed it.
One of the ways to keep the cycle of business moving is to improve the quality of the interactions the customer has with your organization. Any business that delivers attentive, prompt, and courteous service is going to have an enormous advantage over a business that does not. Customers want to feel valued; they will not care to continue a relationship with an organization that does not demonstrate any interest in their needs or well-being.
You can also take steps to ensure that customers return again by increasing the number of touchpoints that occur between purchase or service interactions. We might follow up with customer satisfaction surveys, for example, or send out birthday cards. This keeps your business top-of-mind for the customer when a new need arises, and ensures that the relationship continues.
Some businesses have recognized that it’s actually possible to trigger the next cycle of purchases. Depending on the nature of the business, they may be able to do this through setting up appointment reminders, supplying coupons with expiration dates, or emailing notices about sales. These reminders can prompt customers to return and jump-start the next purchasing cycle of the customer relationship.
Whatever business we are in, it’s a fact that without customers, we will have no business. This is why it’s so crucial to deliver quality service and to recognize the customer service relationship for what it is: a continuing cycle. Customer service is forever, not just today.
Reprinted with permission from Baker Communications