How to keep your customers happy - interview with Chip Bell
Yana Prokopets 4 February 2015
Keeping your customers happy is no easy task. We talked to one of the world's leading customer service experts Chip Bell about what makes clients stay loyal and what obstacles companies face when trying to improve customer service:
1. It’s not exactly a secret that great customer service is a key to success to today’s hypercompetitive environment. People have been talking about this for years. Yet one can’t say that we’ve progressed a lot and customer service today is much better than, say, 20 years ago, at least as far as an average company is concerned. Why is that?
Blame it on Amazon, Disney, UPS, USAA, etc. who provide great experiences to customers. It has elevated the standard for "great customer service." After customers log on Amazon, they look at every other website through Amazon eyes. When the UPS delivery person walks fast delivering a customer's package, the USPS mail carrier gets painted with the same brush. Disney friendly raises the ante on the next receptionist or sales clerk the customer encounters. Another factor is the short term, quarter-to-quarter preoccupation some organizations have with the bottom line. Great customer service is an investment. And, there is not the quantitative cause and effect capacity to measure return that a company might have with adding a branch or new product. Yet, look at the organizations selected as the best customer service companies and they are also on the most profitable lists.
2. Do you think that companies need a specifically designed loyalty program in order to make sure their clients come back again and again? Or is it just a marketing gimmick that fails to deliver?
Wise organizations carefully plan, organize and manage their customers' experiences. It is not a marketing gimmick. Marketing and promotion is designed to bring customers in. But, what brings customers back is their experience. Marketing creates hope and promise; customer experience (along with the quality of the product or outcome) is the proof and evidence.
3.What are the essential parts for a successful loyalty program and what mistakes do you see most often when businesses try to implement one?
Key to any loyalty program is relevant, timely customer intelligence. Organizations must start with a deep understanding of what drives customer loyalty, not just what customers say is important. What is important might just be a table stake, not a market place differentiator. Ask customers the most important feature of an airline and they will tell you safety. But, customers rarely select one airline over another because of safety. Organizations need a clear strategic definition of the experience they seek to create ( internally and externally) supported by standards, practices, and metrics aligned with that definition. Employees must be selected, trained, resourced and rewarded to consistently deliver that promise. Organizations wishing to embark on such an effort must view it as a long-term cultural shift not just a cosmetic short-term fix.
4. Many folks look at CRM as primarily a sales tool. Yet even the name suggests that it’s intended for managing relationships with your customers. How do you change this mindset?
CRM is a tool, like a hammer. Great carpenters need tools but tools do not a carpenter make! CRM helps provide system-wide end-to-end information helpful in delivering what customers want and need in the form and fashion they prefer it. It is far more than a sales tool if effectively used.
5. What resources can you recommend (blogs, books, magazines, websites, podcats, etc.) for business leaders who are seriously interested in building a customer centric company?
Blogs like Customerthink.com can provide on-going information. There are many books available, including mine as well as books written by Jeanne Bliss, Steve Curtin, Shep Hyken, Colin Shaw, Marilyn Suttle, Don Peppers & Martha Rogers, Seth Godin, etc.