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Its About Customer Service!

| James Riley |

Thinking Outside the Box

Over the past few weeks, I have personally witnessed some incredibly horrible cases of customer service and some amazing cases as well. While tremendous amounts of money are spent on marketing to acquire new clients, often, existing clients are taken for granted or overlooked. It amazes me to see how much people, and companies, often ignore basic customer service and undervalue its benefit.

As one example, one of our vendors charges us an annual renewal fee for some of the software that we use. In that renewal, for the past several years, we have received a loyalty discount for continuing to renew with them. This discount is small but it is just a nice thank-you for staying loyal. This year, we received notice from them that they were discontinuing that discount. I could accept the discount being removed except that, the next day, I also received a marketing e-mail from them indicating significant discounts for new purchases if the new purchase was displacing a competitor. I reached out to our sales rep and asked about this. He stated that money has been allocated to fund this competitive displacement program but, in order to fund this, they had to remove the loyalty discount. So, this vendor, who we have been loyal to for quite some time now, and who has little ongoing cost to have us continue to use their software, is penalizing us in order to try and get new clients.

I wish this was an isolated incident but it’s not. Years ago, when we used DirecTV, they did the same thing such that it was better for us to cancel service with them, wait 3 months then re-initiate service to get the “new customer” discounts. I am sure that we all could lay out numerous examples of the same kind of thing.

Please don’t get me wrong, I absolutely believe that people and businesses should be allocating funds to develop net-new growth, it is imperative to overall health. As with many things, however, the devil is in the details.

In agriculture, when you focus on new growth and something grows faster than it should or without a healthy base, you end up with a tree that doesn’t have solid enough roots to weather a storm or a tree with roots that are not able to adequately feed the rest of the tree. This is similar to a business. If we focus too much on new growth, we often do so at the expense of healthy growth. When a business does this, it adds new clients but hasn’t developed the ability to take care of those clients and the new growth ends up being more focused on just keeping up with the resulting losses.

When we focus on providing amazing care to our current client base, a number of amazing things start to happen:

#1 – Lower Attrition

By delivering amazing care to current clients, they don’t tend to want to leave you. If you bring on 3 new clients but lose 1, you, effectively, have only added 2 new clients. If you can reduce the amount of attrition, the math is much more favorable.

#2 – Better Employee Retention

This may seem to be disconnected but we find that team members enjoy working with happy clients and enjoy being able to deliver solutions to clients. When they are empowered to care for clients, they tend to be happier and tend to stay around longer.

#3 – Better Public Perception

When you don’t have clients or employees leaving and badmouthing you, your reputation is bolstered, which makes a big difference when new potential clients are evaluating you.

#4 – Lower Cost of Sales

In general, it is far cheaper to keep a current client than it is to find one to replace them. Additionally, adding 3 new clients and removing 1 client is more expensive than adding 2 new clients.

#5 – Easier Sales

I have walked into many sales meetings where the new prospective client simply stated something like: “I have been asking around and you have a great reputation. I trust that you can do what needs to be done and that you will treat me fairly. When can you get started?” How much easier does it get than that?

In the early days, I thought that amazing customer service meant that I had to find some magic cure or do some extraordinary thing. More and more, though, we are finding that amazing customer service is pretty simple. This makes sense when I think of times I have experienced great customer service. Usually, it revolves around the vendor simply listening to me, connecting with my need, telling me what they can do and doing it. Often, people say, “if it was easy, everyone would do it.” It seems to me that this is really that easy but people get focused on a lot of other things and don’t take care of the customer.

How do you make sure that you are delivering amazing customer service? Have you found it to be a benefit to your overall operational health and ongoing client relationships?