A successful business must manage the customer experience with the company — from the initial sales call to contract loss.
Customer loyalty suffers when the experience doesn’t match expectations.
Even during difficult times, customer loyalty can be salvaged by focusing on those things that can be controlled.
Communications are important as an ongoing practice before problems arise because they build relationship equity that helps weather difficult times.
When problems do arise, it is important to keep the channel of communications more open, more frequent, and more focused on problem solving during those times when the customer is disappointed with performance.
The focus on customer loyalty requires a different mindset on the part of the company; a mindset that recognizes what gets defined, gets measured, and what gets measured, gets managed.
And, it’s management’s job to establish the clear definition of those factors that the customer cares most about.
By understanding what the customer cares most about, the organization can develop or improve specific processes.
The company should constantly focus on finding and implementing incremental improvements to every important customer-connected process.
For example, in the cleaning industry, what managers seem to care most about is hearing nothing — no complaints, no failures, no problems, nothing.
How can service providers change or improve to ensure hearing nothing?
One mechanism could be a visit each day by the service provider’s manager with each buyer department and stakeholder.
By getting comments, complaints, and requests directly, the contractor’s manager is in a better position to help the building manager hear nothing.
The second most important thing that customers seem to care about is stress reduction.
Stress is a measure of the emotional cost of hearing “nothing.”
So, while customers want to hear nothing, they want to achieve this in a stress-free way.
Predictably, keeping the customer informed is a great way to ease stress when there is more than nothing going on.
Having visible activity and on-site management is another way to reduce stress.
Buyers are less stressed when they see a busy cleaner (preferably in the morning when everyone is reporting to work) and when the contractor’s manager stops by to give the building manager an update about what has been found and corrected.
This is really about anticipating customer concerns and taking the proactive steps to resolve those concerns before they become problems.
Managing the customer-connected experience, the service provider can develop or improve every point of its contact with the customer to maximize its customer loyalty rating.
The balance of this three-part column series will examine each of these measures in greater detail, using an interconnected model for defining, measuring, and managing the building blocks leading to customer loyalty management.
The customer loyalty model is drawn from a set of interconnected ideas that link customer expectations, perceived quality, and perceived customer value.
These personal building blocks are further linked to customer loyalty through the soft measure we call customer satisfaction — how customers feel — and customer complaints — hard measures.
The Interrelationship Diagram depicts the cause-and-effect relationship of factors that most likely influence the generic customer.
While there are a variety of customer categories, including managers, occupants, purchasing, contract administration, etc., the Diagram presented below is built around the end user or occupant customer.
Click here to view image at full size.
We will further explore these elements in next month’s issue.
Vincent F. Elliott is the founder, president and CEO of Elliott Affiliates, Ltd. of Hunt Valley, MD, www.ealtd.com. He is widely recognized as the leading authority in the design and utilization of best practice performance-driven techniques for janitorial outsourcing and ongoing management.