As 2012 is quickly coming to a close, I thought it would be beneficial to provide 9 recommendations that companies should consider implementing in 2013:
Share The Power
Hire carefully, train effectively and then empower your employees to do whatever is necessary to execute their job responsibilities in a customer-friendly manner. In these quickly changing times, you cannot anticipate what will come next and you cannot script every interaction.
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Companies need to trust and empower their employees to go that extra mile. If you use Nordstrom’s associate manual as your guide for dealing with customers, and hire people that can relay a simple but impactful message, you will be way ahead of your competition:
Welcome to Nordstrom
We’re glad to have you with our Company. Our number one goal is to provide outstanding customer service. Set both your personal and professional goals high. We have great confidence in your ability to achieve them.
Nordstrom Rules: Rule #1: Use best judgment in all situations. There will be no additional rules.
Being Socially Responsible Is No Longer An Option
Many customers and employees are becoming advocates for the environment and giving-back to the community. A growing percentage of people are going to want to do business with and work for companies that have a strong social conscience and contribute a portion of their revenues to worthy causes.
Revenues are critical to a company’s success, but sharing a portion of an organization’s dollars to better the community will be greatly appreciated and help to increase brand and company loyalty.
Word Of Mouth Is The Best Kind Of Marketing
Encourage your customers to share their experiences with your products and/or services on social media. Just this past summer, Kellogg’s tested a new type of shopping experience where you could buy chips via tweet. Rather than paying with cash or credit, you pay with a tweet. Consumers would post a tweet on Twitter, in their own words or using ones Kellogg’s suggested, and in exchange, the consumers received a real bag of chips!
A Growing Ethnic Population Is More Than A Political Discussion
Providing customer service to or marketing products to a diverse ethnic group of customers is more than just offering options in their native language. Companies need to understand the cultural differences and nuances of the different ethnic groups and make sure to interact with them professionally. People, no matter what their ethnicity, need to feel welcomed, respected and listen to.
Any Policy That Affects A Customer, Must Be Customer-Friendly
Companies should review all processes; training and policies that affect customers and make sure all experiences are hassle-free and welcoming. If you want a customer that is going to be eager to do business with you again, make sure it is easy to do so. With the holiday season coming up, start with your return policies and think about how you’d feel as a customer trying to return some merchandise.
A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words
For over 5,000 years, graphics have been combined with words to gain attention, to leave a more memorable impression and to tell a story that words alone cannot always communicate efficiently. With an ever-increasing aging population and with a more diverse ethnic society upon us, graphics, which have always had a place in business, are going to be used more widely. Utilizing more effective and color-coded product directions and instructions will be the norm, however, companies need to ensure that words that appear on these graphic or written materials are created using larger fonts. People get frustrated when they cannot read what is written, especially when it can directly affect their health such as dosages, warnings, etc. Make sure your marketing materials, instructions, etc., are viewed by your customer care team to ensure that they are clearly understood and easy to read.
Social Media Is Now On The Other Foot
For the last few years, employers have been investigating what potential job candidates are doing on social media. It’s been a wake up call for anyone who is applying for a job or even if they are currently employed. Now, job candidates are doing the same research to see what companies are doing on social media and what their employees say about them. Companies need to make sure they are creating a positive work environment with a work/life balance that will foster engaged employees. Additionally, keeping an active corporate social media presence will help make sure potential employees are well informed.
Respecting Customer Privacy
Although consumers love their mobile devices, they despise when their cell phone numbers are used as marketing tools without their permission. I have heard of so many cases where people were texted or called on their personal cell numbers without their permission; making them irate. Make sure your company not only puts policies in place to ensure privacy, but also has customer feedback mechanisms in place so that consumers can opt out of any unwanted communication.
Service Is Still The Most Difficult Ingredient To Replicate
Every customer is a person first, customer second, and they all have varying emotions and experiences.
Even exceptional customer service does not guarantee customer retention.
The link between customer service and repeat business is the ability to build a relationship.
Strong relationships are not between a company/brand and a customer, they are the ones that are built between one company associate and a specific customer.
Technology and the effects of globalization are forcing us to change the way we do business every day. Don’t allow those two converging entities to change the way successful businesses were built since day one. Make sure you allocate the funds to hire the right people, train them properly and focus them on building relationships with customers on every transaction. Whether it’s face-to-face, over the phone or via the Internet, customers are looking for that human interaction.