On a recent trip to Los Angeles, I ate dinner at a highly recommended restaurant in Malibu. My dining companion and I arrived as the sun was slipping over the horizon, turning the Pacific Ocean into a shimmering blanket of liquid gold. Absolutely magnificent. And after eating at the restaurant, I can report that its reputation is well earned - the service was impeccable, the view stunning, and the atmosphere intoxicating.
The food, on the other hand, was less than stellar - the sea bass was dry, the polenta runny, and the wilted greens…well, not so wilted. And even for Southern California, everything was a bit overpriced. If you asked us, "How did you like it? Satisfying?" "Sure," we'd tell you, "with everything but the food." Will we eat there again? Not likely.
We fit the profile of most customers in America – only 5% with problems complain, 50% simply do not return. For business owners this is a sobering reality.
Exceptional execution that satisfies customers' needs is the key to achieving customer loyalty and, ultimately, profitability. It also gives you a competitive advantage. Satisfied patrons become valuable marketing partners, spreading your brand by word of mouth, and they do it for free!
So the question is: what drives customer satisfaction? Let me suggest three things:
Products. Deliver products and services that are of upmost quality and relevance. Know what your customers want, and strive to exceed expectations. At the same time, surprise them by offering new products that aren’t anticipated. The expectation of being wowed by something new and extraordinary draws customers back and helps create brand equity.
People. Employees are one of your most valuable assets. They interact with customers and help execute your business plan. Treat them with honesty and respect, and they will exude similar qualities in the workplace. Build talent and capacity through ongoing training; teach employee how to ask questions so they can better serve customers. Seek operational feedback from your employees; they're the ones on the front line after all.
Performance. Consider customer service as performance art. Employees at Disney World are called "cast members" for a reason: they create a memorable experience for each guest, adding value to every interaction. Think about an excellent performance you recently experienced. Likely, it had a great script or score (its product), a great cast (its people), and wonderful staging (the "ambiance" that helps create a first-rate experience). I bet you left satisfied yet wanting more. This is precisely what superior customer service does – it delights and creates future demand.
Differentiate on these core elements and you will create a business that customers find irresistible. Whether you are a small business owner or a corporate business partner with internal clients, follow these principles and you will develop a core group of customers that keep coming back.
As one journalist recently wrote about Taylor Swift's incredibly effective social media strategy, “Take care of your fans...and they’ll take care of you for life.”