ask the expert
Identify the best ways to cultivate lasting relationships
No matter what your company sells, your success hinges in large part on the same thing – great customer service.
As customers, we all want the best service. We want the companies with which we do business to provide easy-going, trustworthy, personalized attention. If they succeed, we patronize them again. If they fail, not only will we be unlikely to return, we will spread the word among our networks. Considering that it costs significantly more dollars to gain a new customer than to retain an existing customer, the first key to business success is retaining customers.
As the banking industry has commoditized its products, delivering world-class, award-winning service is a key differentiator, and all FirstMerit employees recognize that. As such, we share a few insider tips on how to use customer service as a distinguisher for success, no matter your market or industry. Recognize that each step takes a level of focus, dedication and investment from the entire company.
Build trusting relationships
People like to develop strong relationships with organizations with which they do business, and trust is a critical component. They count on the supplier delivering as scheduled to ensure the company can meet production demands. They rely on the department store to sell clothing that won’t unravel after the first wash. And FirstMerit’s clients trust us with their money. They need to know they will find consistent delivery of services whether visiting a branch, banking by phone or going online. When a challenge arises, they need to know it will be solved brilliantly. Beyond that, customers always appreciate value-added services such as proactive advice on how to make the most of their money. Ask yourself, What is it that makes your relationships so strong with your best customers? How can you offer a similar experience to the rest of your clients?
Grow through customization
Many small business owners typically do not have time to visit a FirstMerit branch during work hours and instead do their banking by telephone and computer. Then again, some customers prefer to come into the branch and work with a teller on a face-to-face basis. A single-service delivery solution no longer works as it once did. At the same time, the trend in customer service is focusing on one-on-one relationships. To be successful, customer service now requires knowing the needs and wants of each segment of your audience and then delivering the options that best meet each segment’s requirements. At FirstMerit, customers have the option to conduct transactions online, by phone or at their local branch for a face-to-face experience. How can you offer your customers a choice in how they do business with you?
Every encounter with your business should provide that top-notch customer service. Your customers expect it and you should too. Make sure all your employees understand their role in the service equation, are trained to handle challenges and know whom to contact when they need assistance. After all, great customer service really stems from the “internal customer” service in your organization. For example, do your employees treat each other with respect and do they work to help find a resolution even if the challenge may not be their direct responsibility?
Appreciation is a sign of respect and value. Make sure to recognize and reward your loyal customers, whether it’s a points system with prizes or a simple thank-you note for their patronage.
Don’t stop learning
Take cues from the retail industry to improve service and understand consumers’ changing expectations. Perhaps it’s greeting people the moment they walk into your place of business. Or maybe you ask questions to get to know your customers better – gaining added insight so you can better match your services to their needs and wants. In addition to reading about customer service, try to observe and learn as you go about your daily shopping encounters – personal and professional.
Never be satisfied
At FirstMerit, we are more proud of the accomplishments we have made in serving our customers than anything else. Yet we will never be satisfied – we know our customers expect us to help them find ways to save time and money so we are continually focused on innovation in channel delivery, products and service levels. Learn from what works well and always strive to make it better.