This is an amazingly common problem throughout our industry and one which has only one solution. Training! Empower your team with the knowledge and give them the tools to defuse angry customers. Train and empower them to make decisions to resolve these issues and take ownership of them. No matter how good you already think you are at this sign, consider blowing some dust off your wallet to provide on target and industry specific customer service training to help your entire team get better at building relationships and adding value to doing business with your company as opposed to your competitors. If you are unwilling to both train and empower them, the strong message you send everyone is that you just don’t trust them. When you don’t trust them, they will go away, and so will your customers (See sign #3 below). Little or no employee empowerment and training is a three-alarm fire of a sign that your service probably stinks.
#3: Loss of long-term customers
When you lose a long term customer, you have an enormous bill board of a sign. Once you have built a long term relationship with a customer, your ability to retain that customer significantly increases. This is especially true when something goes wrong. When a customer who would normally give you the benefit of the doubt takes their business elsewhere, I am here to tell you it’s almost always about your service.
Think about the good, long-term customers you have lost. What did you do to regain their trust? Were you able to find out the true reason they left, and what did you do with that information to prevent this from happening again in the future? The customers you lose hold the information you need to succeed! No matter what they may tell you, losing a long-time customer is seldom about price, it’s about a loss of faith in the service you provide. How flexible are you at making changes in your policies based on information from lost customers?
#4: Poor employee retention (especially in a horrible job market)
If you have a revolving door of employees, you have no chance to build a relationship with your customers. Knowledge about individual customers walks out the door with every employee you lose. Do you know why they leave? Even more important, what are you not doing to gain their loyalty and longevity?
Sometimes this is a tough problem to identify, and it sometimes takes an outsider to observe your team and operation. Outsiders can see things you are too close to be able to recognize and can create dialogue with employees who will tell them things they would never say to you. This is a sign that is easily missed by upper management. If your front-line employees stay less than three years, you have a bright red flag waiving in the wind.
#5: Few referrals and low percentage of renewing customers
A new sale followed by a new cancellation is not a terrific business strategy. Taking one out for every account you put in affords you the opportunity of working real hard to stay right where you’re at. If your service is so outstanding (and as business owners, we all tend to think our service is better than our competitors) why aren’t more of your delighted customers sending referrals your way? Slow organic growth and low renewals are, with very few exceptions, a direct reflection of how your service is being perceived.
If your sales team is generating new business everyday but you are taking out as many (or more) than you put in; you might take a look at your service to find out why. When the service relationship you provide exceeds the expectations of your customers, you have an open door to ask for more referrals. At the same time, you can expect to garner a higher percentage of renewals when your service creates a relationship that emotionally bonds people to your company. The old customer moving out of a home does everything he can to help sell your security service to the new prospect moving in. At the same time if your service is truly outstanding, why on earth wouldn’t he take you at his new location if he moves within your market?
To quote a wise old mentor, “Satisfied customers buy from you, but delighted customers sell for you.” How do you teach your team to create an emotional bond to doing business with your organization? How much does it cost you not too? There are many simple “no-cost” ways to generate more referrals and resigns when you provide excellent service. If #5 applies to you, your service probably is probably the reason because it stinks.
#6: Low employee morale
How educated are you in terms of employee morale? If morale is low, your customers will absolutely know it. They will never say a word, but they will feel it. Low morale is not necessarily a result of stinky service; it usually creates service that stinks. When your customers are suffering, rest assured your employees are too.