Often when doing research for clients we ask their customers to rate them on a 10 point numeric scale. If they rate the client a 9 or a 10 we ask the asset focused question. “What are the favorable components of your experience with the Company?
For almost all of our clients the #1 reason their customers give them such a high rating and the reason they remain loyal and are willing to recommend them falls into the category of customer service.
Some outright say “Customer Service”, others say things like “Great communication” “Speedy response” “They are very helpful”, “They understand what I need”, “They meet my deadlines”, “I feel I can count on them”, “They’re reliable”, “They come up with great ideas for me”, “They care about me”.
Over the years I’ve read and heard hundreds of responses like these. All of them some component of great customer caring – rarely do I hear price mentioned as one of the reasons they rate them highly and are willing to keep coming back and bring friends and colleagues. I’m not saying price isn’t part of the equation – it’s just that it’s not actually top of mind after having great experiences. It becomes easier to spend more when you know you are going to get more, even if the “more” you are getting is intangible. Value comes in two ways – hard value and soft value.
Further on in the survey we often ask a different question. We ask “What’s the most important criteria you look for when you are choosing this category of supplier?”
Here’s where we hear about price and quality first followed by things like deliverability and availability. Customer service then is usually rated about #4.
It seems that when we are looking for a supplier it’s the tangible value of the service that matters most. The price has to be right, the quality has to be high, the technical aspects have to all go well and then the customer service has to be good. And that’s all true – but in the companies we’ve surveyed (almost all business to business) after all those things are in place the things that really keep them coming back and referring others have to do with the belief that company cares about them and shows it in their actions. It has to do with the actual felt experience the customer has.
Customers come back to companies who pay attention to what matters to them, treat them with courtesy, respect and kindness, listen carefully and consistently deliver or overdeliver on their promises.
Maybe there’s no real secret except remembering that we are dealing with human beings – not just humans buying. Do the basics and do them brilliantly and do them with caring.