Are You Driving Your Customers Away?
There are a variety of ways in which we might be inadvertently frustrating our customers and clients. One of the most common involves our policies and procedures, which may be unnecessarily confusing or restrictive. By being alert for situations that put our customers on the defensive and handling those situations gracefully, we can retain our customers’ loyalty and avoid driving them away.
Are you driving your customers away with your company policies and procedures?
Well, imagine that a customer who's been with your company for a while with no complaints finally has a reason to contact customer service because of what appears to be a billing error. She assumes the error will be corrected quickly and she'll go on her way.
Instead, your customer service rep recites a convoluted procedure she'll need to go through to rectify the issue, much to the customer's astonishment. The representative explains by saying, "I'm sorry, but that's our policy and we have to follow it."
That procedure might be driven by an arcane control issue in your company -- or perhaps by a legitimate business requirement. But the customer doesn't understand the rationale behind it. In this imaginary scenario, she tries to offer suggestions, but is rebuffed by the equally frustrated employee who seems unreceptive to her proposals.
The customer thinks, "Why aren't they open to my ideas? Don't they believe my opinions have value? My complaint is valid, my suggestions are good, and if they don't want to listen to them, I'll take my business elsewhere!"
Finally, at her wit's end, the customer asks to speak to a supervisor. The representative resists the request and even argues against it. When the customer threatens to end her relationship with the company right then and there, the representative reluctantly summons her manager. What has caused this unhappy situation?
Let's face it -- holes in our policies and procedures can surface every day. In those situations, what our policies allow personnel to do can make the difference between keeping and losing a customer.
Those things include:
1) Sympathizing with your customer's concerns and apologizing for inconveniences.
2) Explaining why the policy exists, especially if it represents a type of customer protection.
3) Offering immediate alternatives to help assuage the situation.
4) Actively recording the concerns for ongoing system improvements, and
5) Making complaint escalation quick and painless, ideally to someone who has the authority to override the policy if needed.
When your policies and procedures cause confusion or don't convey a clear set of benefits to consumers, your customers can be quite sensitive to the "disconnects" they perceive. Those are areas in which the organization might not be "walking its talk" -- and the customers and prospects can feel it, leaving them wondering what your policies are or why you have them.
You can eliminate these disconnects through continually reviewing and fine-tuning the policies and procedures that affect the quality of your customers' experiences. Standardizing the procedural hand-offs within your organization also will bolster your customers' confidence and desire to work with your organization -- because they'll receive the same fair, logical, and helpful treatment no matter whom they contact.
In conclusion, there are a variety of ways in which we might be inadvertently frustrating our customers and clients. In particular, our policies and procedures may be unnecessarily confusing or restrictive. By being alert for situations that put our customers on the defensive and handling those situations gracefully, we can retain our customers' loyalty and avoid driving them away.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Adele Sommers, Ph.D. is the author of the award-winning "Straight Talk on Boosting Business Performance" program. She helps people start up, tune up, or make over their businesses and boost their profit potential by eliminating hidden performance problems. To sign up for more free tips, visit her site at http://LearnShareProsper.com