I used to own and operate an up-market travel business that specialized in highly customized tours in SE Asia and Nepal. Our business was all about building relationships, creating dream trips, developing trust, promising big things and over delivering. These were our primary goals and most of the time we succeeded.
Providing open channels to communicate with guests (prior to, during and after a trip) while creating opportunities to grow the relationship past the initial sale were key to long-term success. Two words were paramount to our entire business: Customer Service.
The never-ending battle to provide winning customer service isn’t an easy one and there’s certainly no perfect way to do so that’s written in stone. New theories regularly emerge in business publications, but creative common sense, constantly analyzing how you do business and considering how you like to be treated as a customer can serve as useful barometers.
A McKinsey & Company article, The three Cs of customer satisfaction: Consistency, consistency, consistency, outlined three key factors they feel help ensure high levels of customer satisfaction, and are worth considering for any business: small, medium or large:
Create a feeling of trust between the customer and your business that is pleasant, productive and doesn’t change.
Say what you mean, do it, and deliver fully each and every time. Keep your promise and message consistent.
The article also points out that a single negative experience has four to five times greater relative impact than a positive one, highlighting the importance of knocking it out of the park each and every time.
During my 13-years serving customers and trying to build long-term relationships I’ve found a handful of other points and strategies powerful:
At the beginning of a business relationship, outline what’s being delivered and agreed upon as clearly and specifically as possible and create a contract of some sort between both parties. This will ensure you can begin your dealings as smoothly as possible and in the unfortunate case of a dispute, easily review what was agreed upon, ascertain what went wrong, then rectify the situation as quickly as possible.
During delivery or while the product is being enjoyed, call/contact the customer to see how things are going. This gives you the opportunity to quickly fix anything that may be askew before things go too far south, avoiding potentially larger and more costly fixes down the road. It’s also a perfect opportunity to further develop your relationship with the customer. This practice is just like a waiter at a restaurant checking how your meal is after you’ve had just a couple of bites, ensuring there’s time to make things right if all’s not well.
Should something go wrong and the customer is not totally satisfied, be sure to carefully listen to them as soon as possible. Most people want nothing more when they’re upset than to feel listened to. Sit back, listen, and let the customer vent all their frustrations and tell their side of the story thoroughly before jumping in. It can also help to gently let them know you hear what they’re saying as they’re explaining things.
“The customer is always right” goes the expression. We all know this is not always the case, but making the client feel so is of extreme importance. After you’ve listened, ensure you let them know you understand their point of view, how they feel and empathize with them. After being listened to, this is what the customer craves most.
High Level Contact
At some point in a business relationship it’s powerful for someone higher up in the organization to establish contact with a customer. This could be after a sale to say, “thanks for trusting us”, during the delivery of the product or well after the sale is concluded to see how the product was enjoyed. Should a business relationship be going sideways this is an ideal time for a senior member of the team to jump in, show appreciation, listen, empathize and try to save the relationship.
Always be thinking beyond the current sale. You’ve already got the customer in the door, they’ve bought in to your services and you should be confident you will deliver as promised and please the client. Look ahead, build trust and a relationship that will see them come back again next time they need the things you sell.
Just because someone bought from you once doesn’t mean they will again. It’s easy to forget or be enticed by another retailer and it’s worth trying to remain fresh in a customer’s mind without bothering them. Find an opportunity to semi-regularly (bi-annually or annually) establish quick, personal contact to remind the client you care and value their business.