Noted small business guru Jim Blasingame talks often on his syndicated radio about the importance of “loving up” your customers in today’s highly competitive marketplace. He encourages his listeners to be certain they train their employees on the appropriate ways to “love up” their customers and to ensure they never miss the opportunity to demonstrate their prowess at “loving up” customers.
The landscape of customer service has been re-contoured. Today’s customers are not at all the way they used to be 5 years ago. What has caused customers to be so different? First, customers get terrific service from some organizations and use those experiences to judge everyone. When the FedEx delivery person walks with a sense of urgency we expect the mail carrier to do likewise. Second, customers have far more choices than ever before so they are forced to use their purchase experience as their primary tool for discernment.
Third, today’s customers are much smarter buyers than their parents were. The Internet has become a potent source of real-time education. It has also been a tool for instant assessment. Considering Sleepwell Hotel for your next vacation trip? You can instantly get web-based information complete with evaluations from forty-eleven previous guests. We are our own Consumer Reports.
These three changes have left customers Picky–more cautious in the choices. Made smarter by the internet, they are empowered and emboldened to accept nothing short of value. It has made them Fickle—quicker to leave if unhappy. Consider these statistics from Accenture’s 11th annual Accenture Global Customer Survey:
- 52% of consumers have switched providers in the past year due to poor customer service
- The estimated cost of customers switching due to poor service is $1.6 trillion
- 68% of consumers who leave a provider will not go back
Yikes! We really do need to love our customers! Why? Consider the perspective of Robert A. “Bob” Peterson, professor of marketing at the University of Texas, Austin. His opinion, based on his research, is that “love that customer” is pretty powerful stuff. For years, Peterson was troubled that so many people were talking about the joys of customer satisfaction, but his research wasn’t showing a very strong connection between satisfaction and retention–repeat business, let alone advocacy. He found that in most surveys of customer satisfaction, something around 85 percent of an organization’s customers claimed to be satisfied with their service but were willing to wander away to other providers if the mood or the price or the color of the advertising banner were right.
Peterson believes that we have undervalued the emotional aspects of customer service; that there is a highly subjective agenda we both fail to ask about in customer research and fail to deal with in service delivery. Only by adding words like love and hate to our surveys, and having the audacity to stand up to the need to incorporate much stronger feelings than like and satisfaction in our company objectives, can we get a handle on this crucial component of customer loyalty.
What are ways to add “customer love” to your customer research? Customers who are satisfied are easily wooed away by a cheaper price, more convenient location, or a minor hiccup. But, those who love you will stay loyal “for richer or poorer, in good times and bad, and, in sickness and in health.” Next week is National Customer Service Week. What will you be doing to “love up” your customers during this special week?
Be sure to check out John’s recent blog on LinkedIn.