How Training for Service and Experience Can Impact the Bottom Line
I realize that in challenging economic times, budgets get intense scrutiny. And often, the line item for training can appear to be a big number, especially in the face of slumping sales. However, I would argue that there may not be any other part of your budget that has as much potential to add to the bottom line to help increase customers such as telemarketing sales leads, payroll services sales leads, or direct mail sales leads.
We can probably all agree that taking care of customers is important, but do you know why? Stated simply, happy customers tend to be more loyal and loyal customers can have a major impact on the bottom line. In fact, a study by Harvard Business Review states that 97 percent of customers who report being loyal to a company are life-long customers. That’s a long time to be spending money with your company!
Creating Customer Loyalty
The first and most important step to building customer loyalty is to focus on the customer experience. Not just one single interaction with one customer, but the total experience with all customers. Today’s customers form an impression of your company based on everything: your facilities, your products, your services and, most important, your people.
It’s imperative to anticipate your customers’ expectations. Impress them by tailoring each interaction to their specific needs and what appeals to them. Keep a log of your customers’ activities, and when possible, include personal notes about each customer. You can then use that information to provide suggestions when they call on or visit your business in the future. If you have a new product or service, don’t just rattle off its benefits. Share the rewards it has for that particular customer. It’s the personal touches that keep customers coming back.
Unfortunately, making personal connections with customers doesn’t come naturally to everyone. But the good news is that exceeding customer expectations is a skill that can be learned. There are very specific techniques that employees can use to engage the customer and create a positive customer experience.
Here is a three-step process that will help you and your team get started:
- Work with your most loyal customers to identify the ideal experience.
- Compare the ideal customer experience to how your people are working today.
- Launch a training program that arms employees with the tools to get better.
Through market research, focus groups or simply old-fashioned conversations, ask your customers to find out what your employees are doing to regularly create emotional bonds. What you learn – both the positive and constructive – will help you build the ideal experience.
Regular customer surveys and mystery shops can help you evaluate employee behaviors and the impressions those behaviors leave. You may even want to focus on a net promoter score. This concept, developed by loyalty business model expert Fred Reichheld, is designed to find those customers who are evangelists for your company. Based on a 10-point scale, when these clients are asked how likely they are to recommend your business to a friend or colleague, they answer nine or 10, with 10 being the most likely to recommend. If those survey results show you don’t have a lot of promoters and you’re not consistently creating the ideal experience, move on to step three.
Regularly hold fun, interactive training events that engage employees by stressing participation and practice. Create a learning environment that encourages participants to be open and identifies obstacles to their success. If employees suggest changes to procedures that will help delight customers, have the courage to implement those changes. Most important, remember that training is a journey, not a destination. Support skill development by measuring performance with ongoing mystery shopping and surveys. Use those results to recognize success and coach for improvement.
Because today’s customers are more informed and more volatile, it’s much easier to get more from your loyal customers through upselling and cross-selling. It’s this loyalty — created through legendary experiences — that will have a huge impact on your company’s bottom line.
John Ely is senior vice president of marketing for Signature Worldwide, a training and business solutions company dedicated to helping clients create legendary experiences for their customers. Ely is responsible for developing, implementing and evaluating strategic marketing and corporate growth plans, and has more than 16 years of industrial and consumer marketing experience.