Thanks to big box stores and a pervasive “not my job” attitude, today’s expectations for customer service set a low standard and still clients aren’t happy. Whether you’re selling a product or service directly to the public or a product or service to another business that sells to the public, your concern lies in ensuring that the satisfaction of the end-user of that product or service. This opens up opportunities to improve upon client service and set your business apart from competitors. However, unless your clients deliver pointed feedback, you may not know your clients are dissatisfied until they’re gone, never to return.
In their June 30, 2015, blog, InfoSurv reports the insightful results of research conducted by Forrester Research, Inc. They cite the top four causes of customer dissatisfaction:
- Inconsistency. Regardless of whether your customers connect with you via phone, social media, email, or in person, they expect consistency in their interaction with your business.
- Tardiness. Customers want to know about your special promotions before they occur and technical glitches or service problems before they find themselves convinced to lodge a complaint. Customers want to know that you care about them and have their best interests in mind.
- Inflexibility. Customers expect service to be personalized to their needs. They see it as a fair transaction: in exchange for their personal information, time, and money, you accommodate them with service tailored to their preferences.
- Inefficiency. No matter how personalized service must be to keep a customer happy, they still require efficient service. Blame technology and the 1980s for the expectation of instant gratification.
That of course, just tells you what your business should ward against, not how to discern whether your current customers are considering taking their business elsewhere.
The first thing to remember is that you cannot make everyone happy. Customer relationship management seems to forget that little caveat, but bending over backward and grabbing your ankles to make each and every customer happy will flout your company policies and frustrate your employees. Yes, sometimes, you must stiffen your spine and tell a customer, “No.”
The trick is to make sure the right customers remain happy. Writing for Layer Cake Creative, Kimberly MacArthur Graham’s September 8, 2015, article “3 Early Signs Your Client Is Not That Into You,” specifies the following indicators that should ring those internal alarms warning you that you’ve got an unhappy customer.
- Lack of engagement. When a formerly responsive client stops engaging with you, even if you’re offering special promotions and discounts, then the customer has lost interest in your service or product.
- Slow payment. A client previously prompt in payment who begins to pay late or to nitpick the charges on the invoice–or even fails to pay at all–“no longer sees the value of your services,” says MacArthur.
- Criticism. Complaints, says Jawad Khan writing for Hiver, indicate client frustration.
- Comparisons. Clients who repeatedly compare you to your competitors are ripe for departure.
All four early warning signs merit follow-up with the client. They may result from a single bad experience or consistently poor delivery. If your company fails to honor its commitments and treats customers as though they’re all the same, then it’s time to improve your client service model. Open a conversation to gently probe into the source of the client’s dissatisfaction, ask what you can do to make their lives better, and then commit to keeping your word with follow-through action.