Get out there and listen to customers
Customer care means client satisfaction and well-being have to rank highon the priority list – without an intimate understanding of customers’ wants, needs and values it is difficult, perhaps impossible, to gain the trust required before customers will listen to what firms have to say.
This may require looking at some basics again and evaluating whether you, the firm, are really listening to customers.
Let’s say you lack the resources to employ a marketing department with in-house research capabilities, which is so often the case with small businesses in Malta.
Lacking these resources is no excuse to ignore the invaluable insight you can gain from systematically encouraging and evaluating customer feedback.
Get out there and listen to them. Do not hide.
Here are just a few of the many techniques you might adopt at little or no cost.
Make occasional phone calls to your biggest customers – or if you don’t have a key customer try a random sample of those who purchase your products or services.
Ask them whether they are satisfied with your work – and ask how well your employees are treating them.
Once a year, pay a visit to your key customers to personally discuss how satisfied they are with your company.
Set up a Freephone number for customer complaints or suggestions. It does not involve great expense.
If a problem arises with one of your products or services, be transparent. Take immediate action to recall products and correct problems involving health and safety risks or poor quality. Encourage customers to send questions, comments or complaints through your company’s website. Respond to all communications promptly. Appoint a member of staff to follow up on customer inquiries and complaints and ensure that customers are taken good care of. Produce a short quiz on customer satisfaction and include it your packages. Once a year, survey your customers to elicit their attitudes and ideas about your services. If you have a few customers, include all of them in your survey. Set up a log to record the essentials about each call from customers, including the date, time, and identity of the caller, nature of the comment or question or service involved.
Listening to your customers reflects only one side of the picture. In a strong customer relationship, a dialogue of sorts occurs on several levels. The character of your communications with customers creates another level of trust, which has to be built by first of all listening to what they have to say.
Dr Gialanzè is chief executive of International Vocational College Malta.