Recently a fellow business owner posted a negative comment about poor customer service she received at a local business, in a local forum with over 1000 members. In my opinion, the forum was not the place to do this. This forum was designed to offer suggestions for the betterment of the community. I rarely comment in such sites, but I do monitor the exchanges, however, this time I did comment directly by saying that I knew the business owners and knew they worked very hard to ensure customer satisfaction. I went on to say that if something was not to your expectation then you should have spoken to the manager on duty.
That is what I find wrong with Facebook posts, people are commenting on maybe 2 percent of the story and impressions are being made on incomplete data. I also saw people posting about a mixed up flower order on Mother’s Day. I laughed because as a former flower shop owner, I know the challenge is huge and with 8- 10 drivers and hundreds of custom orders being delivered, a mix up is absolutely certain. But remember as an owner and a customer everything can be fixed… if you got pink roses instead white, then a new delivery of white roses would be made as soon as possible with an apology and a gift card for your next purchase… We always asked the customer… how can this be fixed? After all we valued the many customers who built our business to the success it was and still remains under new ownership. We always knew if customers were or were not satisfied because we encouraged their feedback.
What are things that you can do to know if your customers are satisfied? Here are my top 5.
Decide when you are starting your business what will be your after sales guarantee on products and services. Commit this to a policy so when it is called upon you have it somewhere in writing to reference this to your customer. You will sound confident and not like you are making it up on the spot. The best time to strike a policy is when you have a calm head about you versus in the throes of a challenging situation and unhappy customer.
If you hear about a customer that was not happy and is generously sharing their underwhelming experience which paints your business negatively… encourage them (however this information usually arrives to you three or four people removed) to speak with you directly so you can determine what factors may have contributed to their negative experience and decide what steps can be taken to make an unhappy customer satisfied again.
If the situation that led to dis satisfaction is based on customer perception and expectations, this can be a key learning point for the business owner. If the customer expected free gift wrapping and that is something you recently started to charge for, post the new policy, preferably well in advance. For example effective October 1 we will be charging an extra fee for gift wrapping. Some businesses will allow the first exception as the new policy is transitioned in and advice the next time you will have to pay. Remember, there are always ways to turn a bad situation into a good one. Policies are never written in stone, they are guidelines and managers can interpret these guidelines.
For you consultants out there, this is about communication as in point 3 and since you work in a less tangible milieu this addresses what you need to put as exclusions in your quotes. If your strategic planning session does not include writing up the notes and distributing them or summarizing the content into a report with recommendations for the committee, state this in your quote. You want your customer to know what they are getting and not getting. An exclusion that is a surprise can serve to discount the already good work that has been done.
Have at least one ongoing method to know if your customers are satisfied. This doesn’t have to be a full blown survey which usually ends with a low response rate. Ask them at the end of the transaction…how was your experience today? You see this demonstrated in the big box stores when the cashier states “Did you find everything you were looking for today?” Or in restaurants when the manager tours the floor and asks diners how their dinner was. One simple question that can garner this information is asking your customer “can you name one thing that we could do to improve your experience?” Or if you have a specific question ask that, for example…we are considering adding on this product…is this something you would be interested in purchasing. As a consultant I regularly schedule time at the conclusion of a contract to have a customer satisfaction discussion. When a client or myself identify issues requiring clarification before the end of the contract I immediately schedule a review meeting because I know there may be potential issues surrounding expectations or exclusions, which will ultimately affect their satisfaction. I want to keep my customers satisfied and I want to know that I am successful with this.
If you don’t know if your customers are satisfied, they may be talking about your business in a negative way… and if they are… you want to know about it, not hundreds of Facebook strangers making a decision based on what they read or hear.