There is a big difference between customer satisfaction and customer loyalty.
Customer satisfaction is an opinion, assessment, snapshot. It’s the answer to the question, looking back in time, “Are you happy with what we have done for you?” Have we met your expectations? Have we fulfilled the conditions of satisfaction? In fact, the traditional definition of customer satisfaction has been “meeting customer expectations”.
But there is an assumption in organization’s pursuit of customer satisfaction that has been proven false. It is not always true that a satisfied customer will also become a loyal customer. Today many organizations can “meet customer expectations”. Satisfying customers has become the norm, a minimum for staying in business. But satisfaction does not mean the customer will be loyal!
So what is customer loyalty, and how do you earn it and keep it for your organization?
My entire professional life has been in Sales and Marketing. In the early years, I juggled the responsibilities of single motherhood and of a working professional.
Each day when my children were young, I would pick them up from school, and we would share stories about the day. Many days as a Regional Sales Manager, my days were spent in the car. The freeways of Southern California were my office, as I would work with the members of my team, preparing for, and debriefing from client meetings.
Three years ago, Ingrid Lindberg arrived at global health insurance giant Cigna and spearheaded an effort to help the company become truly customer focused. As the chief customer experience officer, Lindberg came into an environment that was certainly competent and caring. In fact, 10 percent of Cigna’s thirty-thousand-person workforce are clinicians—nurses, behavioral health specialists, substance abuse experts, and so on—who work to influence the well-being and health of employees (whom they call customers) in the companies they serve (what they call their clients).
Many of us can recall a story about poor customer service that went viral on the Internet. (Think United Airlines and guitars, or Federal Express and computer monitors.) These negative stories have become legends. Unfortunately, we don’t find as many stories going viral about outstanding quality service.
In addition to these legendary stories are more day-to-day examples of how online information has changed the face of service. Nearly every company, product or service has information and opinion about it circulating on the Internet. This includes a wide range of commentary on the level of service and service experiences you provide. And it may even include outside sources, completely unknown to you, who provide service for your products.
Occasionally, into each life, a little rain must fall… in this case, the “rain” is an unhappy customer; this isn’t an “if”, it is a when. When you are in business, and you deal with customers, be it internal customers (employees), external customers (paying customers and clients), or your service partners (distributors, vendors, etc) – eventually someone will feel unheard, uncared for, or mistreated. Should this unhappy customer ruin your day?
The largest financial services providers in the world are concerned that their younger customers don’t really like them. The number of dissatisfied customers is increasing as even the older generations adopt new technologies and models of interaction.
This is not about building an online presence to respond to your younger customers. You need to be at the cutting edge of wherever your customers will be, anticipate expectations and concerns, understand what they value and proactively take actions to increase loyalty.
You need to be young again – curious, passionate and fast.
It has been well documented that providing excellent service to your customers will reap both personal and financial rewards.
But what happens when service falls short? What happens when your staff members, your procedures, or your operations fails to fulfill the corporate goal of quality? Worse yet, what happens when even the desire to provide great service fades away?
The American Express Global Customer Service Barometer tells us that a lack of quality service is far more costly than most people realize.
How much is an Uplifting Service Culture worth to you?
Many people think quantifying excellence in service is an exercise in “fuzzy math”. Do you think so, too? Can you put a hard dollar value on consistently delivering uplifting and outstanding service? Do you know how much money is left behind when your service doesn’t measure up?
Do you really know your customers well enough to stand apart from your competition? Do you want to?
Many people say they know who their customers are. But an alarming number, especially in the B2B world, have only a shallow clue.
Ask yourself these questions, and then think again:
Each time you explore, agree, deliver and assure, the possibility for trust grows between you and the other party. In fact, this may be the only way human beings can build trust with one another.
1. EXPLORE: Find out what is important to the other person.
2. AGREE: Make a promise to do something on their behalf.
3. DELIVER: Do what you promised.
4. ASSURE: Check and make sure they are satisfied.
Are you building powerful partnerships where you work?