4 Rules for Building Service Customer Loyalty
Every business owner knows that it’s important to retain the business of good customers, because those good customers will turn into referrals and more customers. What many business owner’s don’t know is that building customer loyalty – the repeat and referral business that keeps the doors open – takes more than producing a good product or having nice personnel. Building customer loyalty is a continuous process which involves just about every area of the business. Particularly with service-based businesses where there may be a number of variables involved with the delivery, proper information collection, management, and communication becomes the essential foundation for delivering on the promise of great service, which helps to develop loyal customers.
In a previous article titled “4 Rules of Thumb for Business Success”, I stressed the importance of creating the best business impression possible. Here are a few additional tidbits for service businesses – things the company can do to make sure that the work is done completely and correctly the first time, which is what leads to happy and loyal customers.
Rule 1. Remember that everyone in the company is essentially in a sales and service position. The customer should be able to get useful help or direction from any employee. Not that everyone in the company can do all the jobs in the business, but everyone should be willing and able to find the resources necessary to get the customer’s question answered. And it’s a good habit to try to set any necessary service appointments on the first call – it lets the customer know you’re ready to get the job done and saves them time. Too many sales teams simply answer inquiries from callers and don’t ask for the business. If you don’t ask, they can’t say yes.
Rule 2. Structure the order process to make sure that all information is captured, stored, and made available to service techs. Customer requests should be specifically noted, along with any special details or requests. There’s nothing more annoying than telling the company to watch out for something when they’re at your place, and then finding out that the tech didn’t get the memo. Also make sure that any specific work items or parts are listed on the order, making it easier for the tech to record what they do and use. All of this information should be available not just to techs, but to customer service and sales people, too. After all, mismanagement of order information is usually not the customer’s fault, yet the customer is the one who ends up not getting what they asked for. Avoiding this situation is critical to developing loyal, repeat customers. It also makes getting the customer sign-off more likely, and this signature should be captured at the work site when the job is completed (allows the billing department to get the invoice out much faster, which allows the company to get paid faster).
Rule 3. During the job, make sure customers and co-workers are informed as to the status of the work. The worst thing is to partially complete a job and leave the customer hanging – a situation that status tracking of service orders helps prevent. When the work is completed, make sure to let the customer know, and also provide observations and recommendations. Whether it’s a single job or a regular maintenance contract, always document what was done so that the customer knows exactly what work was performed. Use a checklist or cheat sheet to make sure things are done completely and consistently every time, including cleaning up and making notes about the job. Documenting things that technicians notice while at the customer location may provide the opportunity to offer more or other services to the customer, or might at least inform the customer about an issue they should be aware of. By paying attention while on-site and looking for upgrades or value-adds that might benefit the customer, service technicians can often position themselves as top sales people, too.
Finally, Rule 4, always thank the customer for their business and let them know you genuinely appreciate it. Smile, hand them a business card, and maybe even ask for a referral. If you’ve done your job well and kept the customer informed along the way, it’s likely that this customer will bring you more business both directly and through referrals and recommendations. That’s customer loyalty, and you can’t buy it anywhere – you have to build it.