The success drivers for the customer satisfaction and retention (CSR) can be a long list, as anything which we do contributes to the CSR in one way or the other. Here is the list of some key ones:
Product and services meeting customer expectations and product promise
This is the core- There are two parts in there:
- Product Promise- This includes not only what you said in your brochures, and advertisements, but also what your sales person told the customer. It is evident that sales people can over play the good qualities of the product or may mis-sell the product. Therefore, companies not only have to focus on creating authentic published sales pitch, but also ensure that their products are sold but not mis-sold.
- Customer Expectations: One needs to manage customer expectations, as misplaced customer expectations lead to dissatisfaction even if you are meeting your product promise. As a customer behavior, in this sales driven world, consumer, do give a little tolerance to your performance short-falls, but its minor. The methods to manage customer expectations can be:
- Try to address the key expectation gap areas (as you learn by your experience), and clarify it to the customer.
- You can be factual about the key areas which can lead to customer expectations mis-match. For example, for a life insurance company, one can clarify to the customer the sales illustrations (which provides the estimate of the asset value of your policy till maturity), are a guess and not a promise.
- You don't have to go around telling everything what your product cannot do. Focus on key areas, where customers may have wrong expectations. As long as you are positioning it in a factual and positive language, it should do the trick. One other way is to submit detailed technical and functional specifications in a user friendly manner. The product comparison charts with your other products also helps.
Trust relationship with the customer
This is a soft factor, which provides long-term sustainability to your customer base and loyalty. It provides strong foundation to your brand perception and value. This factor mainly emerges from the corporate culture and value systems. The trust-factor with the customer is built in following representations:
- Veracity of the statements in the sales material.
- Authenticity of the sales statements and scripts
- The product recalls, in case of product issue
- Product promise match with the actual product features
- No fine-prints
NOTE- Our feeling is that, if you build an organization culture and value systems which promotes trust factor with the customer, you will build a trust-based environment within the organization itself. This will not only retain your customers, but also your employees and business partners.
Customer service and support
The quality, promptness and friendliness (in that order of priority) of your customer service and support will determine the level of your CSR. Customer service and support is a big subject in it-self. Here are some key areas of Customer Service, which drives the customer satisfaction:
- Knowledge of the product and domain- A customer loose confidence, if the person who picks up the phone does not understand the products or processes of the organization. The following training and support of the front-line staff can help:
- Product features and organization process
- Top 500 questions, a customer can ask about the product and the organization, and their answer.
- Create an online FAQ data bank and also the searchable product and process data-base
- Create train the trainers, which are on the shop-floor to handle any complex query.
- Identity of the customer and customer interaction history
This is a norm in large organization. All interactions with the customer should be noted in detail. This should include:
- The customer issue.
- What did we respond on?
- What did we promise to do?
- Was that issue linked to a previous issue?
A single view of the customer in terms of all his relationships and transactions is key to creating the customer identity. A good operational business intelligence platform or an operational data store can help.
Customer relationship and constant touch
A customer likes to be contacted without the context of any issue. The customer touch can be achieved on the following counts:
- Checking with the customer on if the product is working well?
- Checking with the customer on his level of satisfaction after a repair or service call.
- Sending a mail or a gift token on important customer dates like birthdays and anniversary.
- Contacting customer with new offerings
- Sending regular newsletter, industry developments, and tips on 'how to make the best out of our product' etc.
Level of customer satisfaction index
One can say that customer satisfaction index is inversely proportional to the customer attrition. This is not 100% true, due to following reasons:
- An unsatisfied customer may not attrite, because the exit costs are too high.
- A satisfied customer may attrite, due to aggressive competition campaigns or you may not have the product, which the customer wants.
Customer sales experience
Customer sales experience can leave a kind of good or bad taste. This after taste does contribute to customer retention or attrition. For example a great sales experience may retain a customer, even after some post sales issues. However, if a customer had an inadequate sales experience, it catalyzes attrition.
Customer post-sale experience
The post-sales experience can help reinforce the long term retention. The post-sale experience includes:
- Order Delivery
- Product-installation and demo
- Product kit and user manuals
- Introductory call with the relationship manager or account manager etc...
Exit Barriers for the customer
There are healthy and unhealthy aspects of these exit barriers. We have a dedicated topic for this purpose. One can create exit barriers without being unethical, so that a customer has a good stake in staying with you. Some of the ethical exit barriers you can have:
- Exit clause in your contracts.
- Provide value added but complementary services, which your customer gets used to.
- Understand customers business and domain etc...