Satisfaction Guaranteed!
by Debra S. Goldman

Why is customer satisfaction important? In short, it leads to repeat business – customers enjoying good quality and service enough to return time and time again.

In today’s marketplace competition is fierce. Over the last decade, advances in technology and global travel have enabled the exchange of ideas and goods across cultures. Products that were made solely in the United States are now being imported from elsewhere for less money. The differentiation between competitors’ products is narrowing with satisfaction being the only distinguishing factor. In order to survive and prosper, companies have to provide the “value-added” customers have come to expect.

The customer determines whether a company will be profitable. Their loyalty will result in additional spending, increased market-share through word-of-mouth promotion, improved reputation, and increased profits. Since satisfied customers are more likely to pay their invoices on time, cash flow can be affected as well.

Statistics reveal that 80% of revenue should come from repeat business. An exemplary case is IBM in Rochester, New York, as cited by Jonathan D. Barsky, in World-Class Customer Satisfaction. IBM discovered that they realized a $257 million revenue gain over a five-year period for each additional percentage point in their customer satisfaction scores. Thus, companies should focus more on retaining existing customers than securing new ones.

When designing your own customer satisfaction program, here are some ideas you might want to consider:

  • Evaluate your products and services through your customers’ eyes. How do they perceive quality? How do they plan to use the product? What benefits do they expect to reap? Is your documentation easy to follow? If you were the customer, what would be your expectations?

  • Set realistic customer expectations. Exaggerated claims lead to customer dissatisfaction. Your product or service performance standards should be set high enough to attract business but be realistic enough to deliver or exceed them 100 percent of the time. (Customers will be more satisfied if they expect to be placed on hold for 4 minutes and only wait 3, instead of expecting a 2 minute wait and having to wait 2 1/2.) Bear in mind that your customers’ expectations will increase over time and so should your ability to meet them. When making improvements, focus on those areas where expectations are low but the value to the customer is high.

  • Develop a profile on each of your customers. These profiles should not only include demographic information, but also their likes and dislikes, past suggestions or complaints, spending habits, etc. Such data can be valuable in assessing current market trends and helping with future marketing campaigns. Update this information on a regular basis as out-of-date customer information may negatively impact your clients and eat away at your profits.

  • Communicate, communicate, communicate! Establish an on-going dialogue with both your active and inactive clients using alternate forms of communications. Some effective techniques are letters or postcards, questionnaires, newsletters, special promotional campaigns, telephone calls, customer visits and client conferences. Specific communications strategies should be designed for each customer classification. These classifications should be based on revenue potential and customer activity.

Above all, let your customers help you help them. Listen to them; solicit their feedback and ideas through customer surveys and focus groups. Find out what their needs are, and work with them to enhance and expand on your products and services. Ultimately, their satisfaction will guarantee your success.


Ms. Debra S. Goldman, has 20 years experience providing marketing programs and educational services to both the public and private sector. Her expertise focuses on strategic market planning, marketing communications, customer quality and service process reengineering. Ms. Goldman has an extensive background in instructional design and group dynamics. She is proficient in developing market research studies to assess the needs and measure the effectiveness of marketing strategies, customer satisfaction and instructional training programs. As president of OpTEAM Consulting, Ms. Goldman is currently responsible for developing and project managing strategic communication programs and education forums relative to customer quality. She facilitates customer focus groups and other group dynamic teams to resolve issues, introduce new concepts, obtain feedback on future direction, and develop productivity enhancements. Customer focused and attuned to organizational dynamics, Ms. Goldman brings the energy and enthusiasm to change the direction of customer communications. She drives the reengineering of the process to a more sophisticated client responsive system. Contact OpTEAM Consulting by phone 703-471-MEET; fax 703-904-0959; and e-mail Opteam@cox.net .

Many more articles in Customer Service in The CEO Refresher Archives

   


Copyright 2003 by Debra S. Goldman. All rights reserved.

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