Knowing your customer and checking your own work before they have to are the best strategies for keeping customers happy with your service.
“Well, we didn’t hear anything from her, so she must be happy.”
“We sent a customer satisfaction survey out to her, but she never responded, so I guess we’re doing okay.”
“They’ll contact us if they’re not happy.”
Have you ever spoken these words? Most probably we all have at one time or another. So, why then are we shocked and surprised at an unexpected customer cancellation? Too often our focus is exactly the opposite of what it should be. Too often we hide behind the fact that our customer is not verbalizing a complaint or concern, when instead we should be facing this potential for cancellation head on. Remember that EVERY visit to a client’s home is a potential for complaint or cancellation. We are just one phone call or email away from losing a customer.
Business owners sometimes get lulled into a foggy “everything is ok” state when they don’t get complaints or hear from a customer. In reality, proactive communication is the only way to determine how a customer really feels about your service. It’s a given that a few customers just simply don’t want to be bothered by your service satisfaction calls and or emails, and it’s not those customers about which we are chatting today. It’s instead the mindset of the owner or manager who can identify with any of the three sentences above to whom we speak. Just because a customer has not communicated negatively with you does NOT mean all is well. While you are enjoying a utopian dream state about happy customers, your upset client is quietly dialing the next few services on Google’s first page to get estimates and hire your replacement. The cancellation is imminent.
But you may not be aware of that because you haven’t “heard from the customer.” He or she didn’t email you to tell you that you missed something, and it was the third time in a row that it happened. What the customer is doing, however, is emailing your replacement to set up service. And the next time you hear from your customer, it is to say goodbye.
Did you know that over 65% of customers who stop doing business with a company do so because they feet no one cared about their satisfaction? Customers know when you care about how they feel and they will do business with companies who can demonstrate that care. Not just give lip service, but truly show by actions that you care about how they feel.
Statistics also show that customers will rarely leave your business if you can demonstrate your commitment to satisfying their needs. We all know that profits soar as you keep customers and add new ones, building on your base. Churning and burning customers is as costly to your bottom line as turning employees.
So what can we do to prevent those surprise cancellations and where do we start? Here are 4 things successful business owners are doing.
1. Follow-up with Customers Regularly
Most business owners today have in place a system for customer follow up and monitoring satisfaction levels. If you are not among those who have a process for evaluating satisfaction in your business, then it’s beyond time to develop one. Keep in mind as you develop or fine tune your existing customer follow up/satisfaction process, it’s never about what you think of your service or how you feel you’re doing. It only matters how the customer feels you are performing.
2. Send Inspectors for Quality Checks
While it’s true that you will never know how your customer feels if you don’t ask, many times getting a response is not easy. Remember that’s it’s not your customer’s responsibility to do a quality check for you. It is your responsibility to know about the quality levels you are delivering in addition to knowing about how your customer feels about the service they are receiving. Back to that “It’s never about what YOU think, it only matters what the customer thinks” mindset. When you allow the “No News is Good News” thinking to exist, the road to a cancellation call can be short.
3. Review and Revise Communication Plans
Taking the time to revisit your customer communication strategies, follow up and inspection programs is the place to start if you have systems in place already. Do you have a management level person out visiting customers regularly? Do you have systems in place to take immediate action when there is a cleaning deficiency or complaint? Is your response time quick and efficient? Do you show your customer that you understand they are upset and you care enough to get the issue resolved immediately?
4. Practice and Re-train Telephone and E-mail Technique
Sometimes it’s as simple as a tone of voice or a showing of care by whomever answers your phone. With email as with voice, the tone and attitude come through loud and clear in messages sent. It’s as simple as a smile to a customer from a cleaning technician. The way a company feels about its customers is clearly demonstrated by the words and actions of its employees. The attitude toward satisfaction starts at the top. So make certain yours is no less than what you expect of employees.
How do these techniques relate to “No News is Not Necessarily Good News?” They speak to the culture of customer care and communication that exists (or not) in your company. They say to an owner, don’t take for granted that a customer is happy just because you don’t hear from them. They say you should develop and constantly refine a proactive plan to communicate with your customers on a regular basis and monitor customer satisfaction levels every day. And finally, they say it is up to you, the business owner to know and monitor the levels of service delivered and how your customers feel about what you do. So indeed, No News is Not Necessarily Good News! What is good news is when you move out from behind your desk and go talk to customers or pick up the phone and call them only to find out that they are ecstatic with the service they receive from you. It’s up to you!
Sharon L. Cowan, CBSE, is an author, speaker and industry consultant. She grew and sold a successful multi-million dollar commercial and residential cleaning company and focuses her time on helping businesses succeed. She is one of 180 professionals worldwide to earn the CBSE designation which is the highest individual certification in the janitorial industry.