New Year, New Resolutions – Excellent Customer Service

Welcome to 2012. Happy New Year. It is that time of the year where many people reflect on what has taken place in the year before and what they want to achieve in the following year.

Yes, it is the time for a New Year Resolution. For businesses, many people think about this in terms of key objectives. That is good. But there is one “management objective” that gets to me at this time of the year. Yes, you see it in the title “excellent customer service”.

You hear the head honchos, the chiefs, the GMs; the boss – they say this, “This year, our key strategic focus will be on a) profits, b) growth and c) excellent customer service.”

You know, if you have excellent customer service as your focus this coming year, what were you doing last year? Lousy service?

Let us not confuse what would amount to the essentials with the differentiating factors that set your business apart. A business is always about profits. Growth, maybe also true in many instances, but excellent customer service is not a strategic thrust. Really. It is actually, surprisingly, a fundamental expectation from your customers, of your business.

As a small business, most of us have no time for fluff. We need to focus on the essentials and then, try to identify the one or two defining qualities that set us apart from our competitors. What do you do for your new year’s resolution?

New Products need People to Survive

It used to be that people needed products to survive. Now products need people to survive. ~Nicholas Johnson

Not surprising, with consumerism being the norm these days.

I used to have a green fan sitting on my desk. I remember my father used to take it apart every fortnight to give it a thorough wipe down and wash the metal casing to prevent any rusting. That green fan faithfully served me through out my years in elementary school and beyond. Only when I was in high school did my father retire it with regrets.

Back then, things were built to last. Not any more. For the last 10 years, I believe I have bought more than 6 to 7 fans. Somehow, they don’t last as long as my faithful green fan. And no, I didn’t turn abusive as I age. I’m one of those rare specimen who still believe in sending damaged products for repairs. Even when I have to dump beyond-repair goods, I usually place them in recycle bins.

Naturally, my mum laments “Things are not sturdy any more.” She has a similar experience. After her 26-year-old Kelvinator refrigerator died of old age, she also had to replace her fridge once every two or three years.

My answer to mum is “If things were build to last. Many people will be out of a job.”.

With consumerism raging and the promiscuity of consumers who prefer to have the newest model, newest look, newest toy in the town, it behooves the old brands to update themselves regularly to stay in touch with their customers’ swaying loyalty. As for the new kid on the block, the products basically must be of good quality, look great and price well. Otherwise, good luck!

Small Business Web Hosting

In our previous post, we talked about web sites and translations. Thank you for your comments and feedback. But one of the challenges facing many of us, other than creating a great website, is how to get started in the first place.

Many times, web hosting becomes the first biggest hurdle. Yes, it is not a complicated thing. However, its like text messages on your mobile phone. Whether you are using T9, iTap or pressing buttons repeatedly to tap out your messages, it was tough at first. Most small business owners are not familiar with web hosting even if they are comfortable online with emails and social networks.

There are three key things you need to be aware of:

Is the Web Hosting company reputable/reliable?

The worse thing that can happen is if you got your web site hosted, then a year or two or even three years later, the web hosting company folds up. As a non-technical person, transferring web sites, back up and moving to a new web server is a nightmare.

Is the Web Hosting Plan affordable?

The top tier web hosts are, of course, reliable. But they are also expensive. Many of the smaller web hosting companies are serious businesses with dedicated staff and a solid business plan. Good deals can be found. You just need to spend time asking around and checking.

Is the Customer Service good?

Usually, with a good web hosting company, the only time you need them is at the beginning, when you set up your web site. And of course, at first, everyone is nice. The most important though, is when things go wrong. If you do not have a good customer service, there is little you can do to your web site if the problems are on the “server side” of your site.

Do you have good or bad experiences to share?

Soaring Eagle, Rising Sale

I just read the following at Mr Harvey Mackay’s column and believe everyone in marketing should know this

The Research Institute of America conducted a study for the White House Office of Consumer Affairs, which found:

  • Only 4 percent of unhappy customers bother to complain. For every complaint we hear, 24 others go excommunicated to the company—but not to other potential customers.
  • 90 percent who are dissatisfied with the service they receive will not come back or buy again.
  • To make matters worse, each of those unhappy customers will tell his or her story to at least nine other people.
  • Of the customers who register a complaint, between 54 percent and 70 percent will do business again with the organization if their complaint is resolved. That figure goes up to 95 percent if the customer feels that the complaint was resolved quickly.
  • 68 percent of customers who quit doing business with an organization do so because of company indifference. It takes 12 positive incidents to make up for one negative incident in the eyes of customers.
  • I prefer to do my very best to make my clients happy from the beginning. If they are unhappy for any reason, I’ll resolve the issue as soon as possible. Not heeding a client’s constructive feedback – or if you prefer, complaint – can be a suicidal act. Whether you are an entrepreneur or an employee, it’s your clients that ultimately pay for your bills.  So if you intend to kill the goose that lays gold eggs, it’s your decision, your choice. No one can make you serve customers well. Providing great service, or lousy service, is a choice.

    I read another interesting article from Mr Harvey Mackay about a taxi driver that make it a point to provide top notch service. Continue reading “Soaring Eagle, Rising Sale”

    CRM Is the Cheapest Form of Marketing

    Customer Relations Management (CRM) is an essential component of marketing but many people – even marketers – see it as a separate and non-related entity.

    A while back, I shared in my post Why Customer Service is Even More Important these days an unpleasant experience at a well known electronics store. I was a willing customer determined to make 2 electric fan purchases, and no one bothered. There is no use spending good money in marketing, advertising and promotion in the background and to have people in the front line destroy all the goodwill created.

    It is frustrating to find that so many companies chose to ignore this. In fact, customer service is the cheapest way to build long term trust and credibility and create repeat businesses among current clients. Customer relations management is indeed a marketing discipline, and should not be seen as an expense or an operational cost. I know I have been quoting Peter Drucker very often but there’s so much truth in:

    “Marketing and innovation are the two chief functions of business. You get paid for creating a customer, which is marketing. And you get paid for creating a new dimension of performance, which is innovation. Everything else is a cost center.”

    Much of the marketing investment of any marketing campaign are made in:

    • creating the message
    • pushing these messages to the targeted markets and
    • turning prospects into new customers

    After a prospect becomes a client, awareness marketing makes much less of an impact on his decision to buy again. The reason being that the client is influenced by other factors. Did the product meet his satisfaction level? Did he find it tedious to drive 1.5 hours just to buy the product? Was he upset at being put on hold for 15 minutes? Did he find the online order form a breeze to use? Loyalty marketing becomes very important for repeat (aka loyal) customers. Yet only a small budget is allocated for loyalty marketing.

    Marketers usually spent as much as 80% of marketing dollars on awareness marketing to create visibility and new customer acquisition. If a new customer has a problem with the product and has to spend 45 minutes getting someone to talk to him, do you really think that a creative, or even sexy, campaign can convince him to buy again? A consumer usually will be a one-time sucker only. Who wants to be a fool twice?

    Many large multinational companies have outsourced their call centres to foreign lands in view of lower manpower cost. Complaints from their customers – mostly on the difficulty in understanding a different ascent – convinced some of the companies to move their call centres back home. It’s not worth spending good money on marketing and have it washed away with poor customer service. Damage Control and Crisis Management will suck up more time and resources to undo the “bad things” and get back into the customers’ good book again.

    There are 2 ways to improve customer service: Continue reading “CRM Is the Cheapest Form of Marketing”

    Secret Shopping Service on the Prowl

    Whether you are a marketer or a business owner, do you have ready answers for the following questions?

    1. Do you know what takes place in your business when you are absent?
    2. Are your customers receiving the level of service they deserve and expect?
    3. Are they happy with their experience and would they return for more?
    4. Are your staff performing at the level they were trained for?
    5. Do you know when to reward an employee for providing exceptional customer service?

    If you are not sure, secret shopping services, also known as mystery shopping, can give you the answers to these questions!

    Contrary to popular belief that secret shopping was a fad of the late 20th Century, secret shopping actually began in the 1940s. It was used to measure employee integrity. Gradually, enlightened marketers realized that the results were equally useful in creating a satisfactory shopping experience for their customers. Over time, secret shopping services were used by the retail and hospitality industries. Currently, secret shopping companies counted retail stores, hotels, theatres, restaurants, fast food chains, banks, gas stations, car dealerships, apartments, and health clubs as their biggest clients. Actually, any company can use secret shopping services so long as there are customer/business interactions. According to a 2005 report commissioned by the Mystery Shopping Providers Association (MSPA) in USA, the secret shopping industry had an estimated value of nearly $600 million in 2004.

    So what kind of services does a secret shopping company provides? Generally: Continue reading “Secret Shopping Service on the Prowl”

    Why Customer Service is Even More Important these days?

    Everyone knows that is important. However, most are clueless about how customer service can have a direct impact in their lives. If everyone knows customer service is important, why do most of us only pay lip service to it or adopt a lukewarm attitude towards providing an excellent customer service?

    This is a true story that happened today.

    Continue reading “Why Customer Service is Even More Important these days?”