Make Sure They Never Go to Bed Angry

As the owner or operator of a company you can claim to provide good customer service, but this assertion can be hollow if you don’t have a firm grasp on what your customers think about your company. The truth is your company is only as good as your customers say you are. Whether you’re a security contractor or product manufacturer, in today’s ever-evolving security industry customer satisfaction is both a competitive differentiator and business accelerator.

In terms of building your business, satisfaction is one remaining source of competitive advantage. It’s an important business metric that should be measured right along with revenue growth, earnings and cash flow. Delivering a consistent customer experience can have a significant impact on customer loyalty and, by extension, on growth and profitability. 

Client Satisfaction Begets Loyalty

The correlation of customer satisfaction to profit was researched and documented in a book by a group of Harvard professors titled “The Service Profit Chain” (Free Press, 1997). “Research clearly shows that when companies put employees and customers first, then employees are satisfied, their customers are loyal, and their profits increase,” the authors state in the book.

The chain, simplified, is this: Loyalty is a direct result of high customer satisfaction, and profit and growth are stimulated by customer loyalty. To earn the loyalty of a customer, you first have to win their business. Customers will gravitate to those integrators and manufacturers that consistently demonstrate their expertise through successful installations. But they’ll continue to do business with and remain loyal customers to those that deliver the highest levels of service and customer satisfaction.

Successful business leaders in any industry understand customer satisfaction is a critical performance factor and that achieving high levels of satisfaction requires top-down support and a concentrated, sustained effort. A customer satisfaction program cannot be a standalone initiative, but must be incorporated into the company’s strategic focus through its culture, mission, processes, training programs and communication practices. 

Loyal Clients Equal Profitability

The security and IT industries are more aligned than ever before. Global IT outsourcing company Accenture strategically focuses on satisfaction and recently surveyed 3,500 companies around the globe on their experiences with customer service. The report states that “70 percent of Canadian companies who left a provider during the past year left due to a bad customer service experience.” In the United States, that number is a little lower at 50 percent.

We all lose customers through attrition, mergers and acquisitions — can we really afford to lose customers because we don’t regularly ask them how we can improve our relationships?

Consider this: It’s far more costly to win a new customer than it is to maintain an existing one. Walk through the sales process in your mind — new customers are expensive and time-consuming to win over. The Harvard Business Review reports it costs seven to 10 times as much to acquire a new customer than to keep an existing one. Once you’ve won customers, keep them by understanding their needs and satisfying those needs better than anyone else.

According to the National Business Research Institute, it’s five times more profitable to cross-sell or up-sell an existing customer than it is to find a new customer. As your existing base of customers grows, remember that growth is a good thing, but profitable growth is even better. If customers are loyal and continue to choose you as their provider of choice, the results will show up in your bottom line.

Customer Dissatisfaction Is Costly

A satisfied customer may tell a handful of others their needs were met. This could mean they were communicated with beyond expectation or their job was completed on time or under budget. Conversely, a dissatisfied customer will tell anyone who will listen about poor performance, missed deadlines or blown budgets. You can’t fix a problem if you don’t know about it. Unfortunately, only 4 percent of dissatisfied customers will proactively complain to your organization. Though it’s not possible to satisfy all of your customers all of the time, don’t you want to be the first to hear the news, whether good or bad?

It’s no secret that an unhappy customer can do a great deal of damage to your business and it’s reputation. In today’s Internet world, fixing an issue before it becomes a problem is more important than ever. An unhappy customer can tell the world in a matter of minutes about their grievance by posting comments online. Be proactive. Give customers the opportunity to tell you what they think about your company and what they need to be “very satisfied” (loyal) customers. Consistently ask for feedback — through regular surveys, in person or at every touch point with the customer. This will help you discover issues before they turn into crises — let alone lost customers — or negatively impact the reputation you’ve worked so hard to earn.

Customer responses will provide valuable feedback and help you to identify and prioritize areas for improvement. But don’t ask unless you’re going to respond. Not following up on a complaint or issue can be just as costly as not asking in the first place.

How to Start Measuring Approval

Measurement is the surest way to reinforce positive behaviors or change negative ones, and the choices are unlimited. Whatever method you choose, make it easy for customers to respond. If you have internal IT and marketing teams, work with them to develop both the processes and the technology necessary to consistently measure satisfaction. For instance, create an online form on your Web site. If you don’t have the internal resources to implement your own survey, consider using a third party that specializes in customer satisfaction measurement.

You can always start at the grassroots level. One of the simplest ways to request and receive feedback is for your management team to send a personal E-mail or survey directly to your customers. The key is consistency and timeliness, both in requesting feedback and following up. For example, any negative feedback should be responded to as soon as possible and within 24 hours.

Another way to measure customer satisfaction is for the senior management team to get out and meet with customers regularly. Not only will you gain insight into how your organization and employees are performing, but you’ll also build credibility with the customer. Gathering and acting on this information will demonstrate your commitment to the customer relationship and improve retention.

Starting a customer satisfaction program can be as simple as asking one question: How likely is it that you will recommend (insert your product or company)? This question is the ultimate indicator of customer loyalty, no matter who your customer is or what business you’re in. And a loyal customer will sing your praises, be resistant to competition and recommend you to their colleagues.

Your survey should be based on what is truly important to your customers (not what’s important to you). If you’re not sure, ask them. Having a high satisfaction score for a particular question may not affect your bottom line if the customer doesn’t highly associate that issue to their ultimate satisfaction. The key to utilizing a satisfaction program t
o impact the success of your business is to ask questions most relevant to your customers’ satisfaction.

Some potential indicators of satisfaction to

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