Hopefully none you reading this just choked on your drink, (coffee if you’re in Seattle) when reading the headline about customer service. The presumption that we at Nite-Hawk have done a good job of taking care of our customers is a scary one for me; in that the majority of unhappy customers don’t complain, they just go somewhere else. There is a statistic in the hotel industry that only 2% of customers that have poor experiences complain. The other 98% just don’t come back. The estimates for how much more expensive it is to acquire a new customer range from 5-20%, depending on which survey you read. The bottom line is that it’s expensive to lose customers to poor customer service. Undoubtedly, you know this intuitively, but how to fill in the gaps to avoid being a casualty of this statistic? A small often overlooked suggestion is to understand communication mediums and their place in your business.
We all are surrounded by social networking sites, emailing and texting “smartphones”, and the internet with all its advantages and pitfalls. It’s important to decipher how your customers communicate and tailor your approach, without losing the advantages of making it personal. We have seen the two extremes in the sweeping business. The first is the tech-savvy entrepreneur that emails and tweets but never makes a phone call, probably a model of efficiency, but losing that personal touch that separated him early on from the competition. Have anything important to say? Don’t email it. Face to face contact is the best way to communicate, followed by a phone call. Personal contact allows you to read the customers reaction and handle any concerns they have immediately. In addition, over-emailing puts you at risk of becoming irrelevant. Don’t become spam. Help the customer invest in the relationship process through direct contact.
The second extreme is the very personable guy that thinks the cd tray on his computer is a cup holder. His customers love to talk to him, but they get frustrated by his inability to work electronically. He is able to read customers through direct contact but struggles with inefficiency. Customers want the best of both worlds.
Social networking sites can be very helpful in creating an image and communicating, but can also lead to unprofessional behavior and a lack of information control. Be careful of content that is posted and the perceptions that it creates. Actively control the information the best you can and don’t be complacent on comments you make on your site. I am constantly amazed on what people will post, only to discover later that what they thought was funny or cute, was considered immature or unprofessional to a customer. If you are thinking about a blog then remember the 90-9-1 Rule. 90% of people that look at your site will be the audience, 9% will be the editors and that 1% will create the content. So what you think is the norm may really be the minority talking.
Understanding your customers’ communication habits and mediums can help to create stronger relationships and prevent miss-communications. If you are not sure of your customers’ interaction communication requirements, don’t be afraid to ask. In the worst case, use the tool that got you started as an entrepreneur, your face to face sparkling personality.
Tracy Day, President