During these times of global markets, e-commerce and the volume of information at our fingertips, people have a wide variety of choices when they decide where to spend their hard-earned dollars. What do you and your organization do to entice them to “buy local” or to continue doing business with you over time?
In his book “How to Win Customers and Keep Them for Life”, Michael Leboeuf points out that:
- 68% of customers leave because they are upset with the treatment they’ve received
- 14% are dissatisfied with the product or service
- 9% begin doing business with the competition
- 5% seek alternatives or develop other business relationships
- 3% move away
- 1% die
And, when you couple these statistics with the fact that a typical business will only hear from four percent of their dissatisfied customers, turning customers into customer advocates can pose some challenges. So, what should organizations do to attract and build a customer advocate base that actively encourages their family, friends and associates do business with them?
Make turning customers into customer advocates the responsibility of every employee.
Everyone in the organization should be actively involved and fully committed to developing customer advocates. Though every employee may not deal face-to-face with your customers, their job responsibilities can directly or indirectly impact the quality of the customer experience. To treat your customers’ right, everyone needs to be on board with the role they play in turning customers into customer advocates.
Understand what customers want, need and expect.
1. Customers want to know that they are your number one priority. Consistently place them first and respond to their ongoing needs to show that you value them and their business. Focus on building relationships with your customers, and make sure that you are easy to do business with and quick to help.
2. Customers want quality products and relevant services that meet their needs. How consistently your products and services meet customer needs will determine the customer’s perception of your brand, reliability and overall reputation. Make sure you keep your finger on the pulse of your customer’s changing needs and adapt accordingly.
3. Customers expect products that work, quality services and a pleasant customer experience. But, when problems do arise, they want them solved in a timely manner, and to be treated fairly in the process. Solve problems in a timely manner to the customer’s satisfaction and they will reward your value-added approach and commitment.
Avoid doing what customers don’t want.
Customers do not want 1) to hear excuses for poor service or products, or 2) all the reasons why the problem can’t be resolved, or 3) that the person they are talking to is not the one who can help them. It’s important to ensure that your customers do not feel ignored or left hanging. They should never be told that they are really the problem, or be left with the thought that you are doing them a favor. Though it would be nice to believe that these things could never happen, unfortunately my experience suggests that they happen more frequently than any of us would like to admit.
When your organization consistently meets customer requirements, and avoids what customers don’t want, you build a level of trust and confidence in your brand, products and services. And, as a result, that relationship paves the way for turning customers into customer advocates. The more customer advocates you have singing your praises…the more business that comes your way.
I would like to leave you with a story about how a local business turned customers into customer advocates in a matter of moments.
An Advocacy Moment…
A couple of years ago a fellow Rotarian and I were getting together for lunch. We get together a couple of times per year and take turns picking the restaurant. This time it was his turn to choose, and he picked a new restaurant that he and his wife had visited the week before for dinner…the Wild Sage American Bistro.
As I entered the Wild Sage, there was a flurry of activity and the room was filled with wonderful smells. While standing inside the door, I found myself wondering if we should have made reservations. Then Tom, one of the owners, extended me a greeting. I asked if they had room for the two of us for lunch in light of the fact that we had not made reservations. And to my surprise, he shared that the restaurant was not officially open for lunch, but they had gathered a group of people together to test out the kitchen that day.
Tom could have chosen to send us away with the suggestion that we come back when the restaurant was officially open for lunch. But no, he created customer advocates that day. He invited us to join in the start-up festivities, and let us know that we would be asked to draw an entrée selection out of a hat versus ordering off the menu if we chose to participate. Needless to say we were delighted to be included in the test, and we both enjoyed a delicious lunch and a fun experience.
I became a huge fan of the Wild Sage that day and have recommended it to family, friends and business associates over and over again. And, it is still one of my favorite restaurants!
As you reflect on this article, I hope you will think about what your team or organization needs to do to turn your customers into customer advocates who sing the praises of your business!