A few days ago, I was chatting to a good friend about how his company has managed to keep giving a great customer experience whilst growing in size over the past few years. What he told me seemed like a good lesson for everyone who has customers, no matter what the size. So I asked him to write about it…
John has very kindly let me ramble on for a bit about how we lost touch with our customers, found them again and are now reaping the rewards.
We’re a small company – that’s something to shout about for us. Not because we’re small, just that we’re no longer classed as a “micro business”. When I joined I was employee number five and the first non-customer facing member of staff. It was exciting times, we were aiming to grow, in fact that was our only aim. We weren’t worried about profit, we knew that would come. I sat with the owner and we were very close to the business, we knew most customers names even if we couldn’t match that with their faces.
As we achieved some growth and took on more staff we were able to stay in touch with the everyday running of the business. Giving staff instant feedback and taking care of the baby ourselves. Our ethos was “make sure the customer goes away happy”, at times to the detriment of profit but again we knew that would come.
Eventually we became too big to stay next to the phones and, in order to get space to think and to discuss confidential things easier, we moved to a new, purpose built office within the same building. We trusted the sales staff we’d left in the other office and growth continued, in fact it snowballed. With our new found space and time away from the front line we thought of lots of innovative new tools to advance the business. Data analysis and new software tools helped us greatly.
Then one day we listened to a sales call by an employee we’d sat next to for years.
It was bad.
So we listened to another one by another employee. It was just as bad.
This was a real eye opener for us. But we felt that they’d just just learnt bad habits. We put together some training by asking them what should be in a sales call and of course, they nailed it. They knew exactly what was required and over time unlearnt their bad habits. I didn’t have to do anything. They had the talent and knowhow, they just needed to know someone cared whether they did it right or not.
Next we decided to ask our customers what they thought, we sent out a survey to all customers when they finished using us. We did this with much trepidation. We thought our customer service was excellent but we were slightly worried about the product. It turns out we were wrong on both fronts. Our customer service was average and our product was pretty good.
It wasn’t the staff that were under performing, it was our processes. Within a short period we’d put easy fixes in place and were instantly able to see the results through the surveys. Next up we had customers questioning our opening hours, something we couldn’t change them because of planning conditions. Or could we? We contacted the council and it turns out we can. Not only has this led to better customer satisfaction but it has directly given us a financial benefit too. This feedback stuff is fun!
When was the last time you checked in on how on you’re staff are feeling and performing? Maybe it’s time you challenged your assumptions and asked your customers, too?
Yes it’s hard to hear you’re not as good as you think you are but it is a great feeling to put things right, especially if lots of them are easy wins like ours were.
We’ve just got that customer who wants the moon on a stick left to sort out.
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