It will come as no surprise for those who have read the recently published Which? annual customer service survey which polled 3,500 people on their opinion of 100 major UK brands, that customers rank businesses which offer knowledgeable, friendly, helpful staff and speedy service, the most highly.
Predictably, top of the gripes list were foreign call centres which `irritate’ people, with automated phone systems not too far behind and being passed around from one member of staff to another in third place.
Of the 100 big brands, cosmetics firm Lush topped the poll with customers appreciating its `happy atmosphere and welcoming staff’, followed by First Direct and Lakeland.
At the other end of the spectrum came energy and telecoms firms with Scottish Power in last place closely followed by Npower, BT, Talk Talk, Vodafone and Ryanair.
Crucially, the companies that did best are the ones that make customers `feel important’. It’s an incredibly simple notion and it’s a lesson all businesses should heed, yet so many still get this very wrong.
What’s interesting about Lush is its refreshing approach to delivering the best possible customer experience and building brand loyalty. It’s a firm that’s never subscribed to the traditional marketing approach, famously operating without a marketing department and not using mainstream advertising to promote its wares.
Rather, the business aims to attract customers and build lasting relationships with them by means of a superior product offering and service, an addictive in-store and online experience and an ethical agenda, confident that a great product is the best form of advertising in itself.
Anyone who has been into a Lush store will know what it feels like. Their managers and staff are masters at understanding the power of the emotional experience that they, and others, firmly believe drives positive appraisal and customer loyalty.
For any business, a well thought-out customer experience will place an emphasis not only on the `what’, but the `how’, in order to deliver a service that doesn’t just exceed practical expectations, but engages and delights at every contact point.
Buying or renting a new home is probably the biggest, most emotional consumer decision we make as adults, followed by the purchase of a car. Car dealers are renowned for grinding the gears when it comes to customer relationship management, with survey after survey reporting unanswered telephone calls or calls diverting to unwelcome answering machines as a major problem issue.
A friend of mine bought a new car for £16,000 yet every time she calls the dealer with an aftersales enquiry they ask her if she has been in touch with them before. Immediately she doesn’t feel important – just the opposite, in fact.
The Which? survey highlighted that nearly nine out of 10 people would be put off using a brand again if they received poor customer service and many will, of course, share the details of their experience with others. Richard Lloyd, Which? Executive Director says: “Firms need to up their game. Those that don’t give customers the care and attention they deserve risk losing out to competitors.”
Simon Whale, Director at property software and Customer Relationship Management specialist Reapit, describes the biggest challenges faced by agents when it comes to getting it right with clients: “Duplicate records are one of the main problems as they affect the integrity of a database, reporting and e-mail marketing activities.”
“They are a hidden menace because often you don’t know how bad the situation is until you carry out deep analysis on your data. The most common cause is sales and lettings departments existing as two disparate organisations where a single person might be any combination of a vendor, an applicant, a tenant or a landlord and this isn’t picked up on.”
“Imagine a scenario where a valuable landlord, who might have 10 properties under management, is given a less than perfect service by the sales department when looking for his next investment buy, purely because the sales department didn’t know the importance of that client to the firm. That simple example could affect the landlord’s decision at his next review stage. A contact centric approach to database management is the answer.”
Smart agents have CRM firmly embedded in their everyday operation, enabling everyone in the business to focus on developing and nurturing relationships with individuals. Any system is only as good as the information placed into it, but diligent agents, regularly updating and operating a transparent hub of customer relationship data, are reaping the rewards.
They are delivering a consistent approach via improved communication, resulting in greater efficiency and productivity and the holy grail that is boosted profits tied in with clients who feel special, nurtured and above all, important.
*Samantha Jones is Commercial Manager Corporate and Property at telephone answering specialist Moneypenny