Customer Loyalty Depends on Good Customer Service

“Exceptional Customer Service: Everyone says they give it, but that’s not always what I see.”

When it comes to customer loyalty, the experience can be everything, and customer service plays a critical role in that experience. Business success is often a result of the sum total of the experiences your employees create for your customers and these experiences can produce powerful points of differentiation. But exceptional customer service doesn’t just happen! It needs to be an integral part of your business culture and strategy. To complete the shift from being product centric to being customer centric, each employee needs to be empowered, through leadership and training, to deliver the best experience possible. How well is your business doing in this area?

I recently observed a real life situation that shows how the level of service can adversely affect the customer’s experience. I was in a store, watching an older woman trying to check out at the cash register. The two employees at the checkout counter were deep in a personal conversation about their plans for the upcoming weekend. The customer tried to get their attention, asking them to make the bags lighter since she had to carry them a distance when she returned home. The individuals who were tasked with helping this woman as she purchased their products never acknowledged her, never looked at her, never smiled, and never offered her a pleasant greeting. They continued their conversation as they rang her up, and overfilled her bags. They never acknowledged or fulfilled her request about lighter bags. At the end, when she mentioned that the bags were too heavy, they looked at her as though she had created the problem. If the store’s manager had been there, how would he/she feel about this customer encounter? More importantly, this customer has the choice of numerous places to shop. Will she ever return to this store? I doubt it, after the experience I witnessed! To take it a step further, how many people will she tell about this experience, individuals who will also choose to shop elsewhere?

In contrast to the poor experience mentioned above, I had an experience at the mall recently. Last August, I was shopping in a store looking for a certain cosmetic, but when I went to purchase it, I learned that the brand had been temporarily discontinued. I was so disappointed. The sales associate, Tatianna, who SMILED and USED MY NAME (I had placed my credit card on the counter) apologized for not having the item I was seeking. She did, however, offer to take my phone number and call me when stock came in. I thought I’ll never hear from her again.

When I arrived home last week, Tatianna had left a message on my answering machine, “Hi Sandi, we just received a shipment of the cosmetics you were looking for and I’m holding two bottles in your name. Please call me. If you’d like, I can charge your account and then mail your purchase directly to you, or you can come into the store, which would be nice so I can see you again.” This was 10 months after my initial visit to the store -- I was in shock! I forgot to call Tatianna back after receiving her first message, but she did call again (she said she knew how busy I was). I went to the store the next week and when I arrived, Tatianna immediately acknowledged and recognized me, told me how wonderful I looked, and said she was glad to see me again. Did I mention I had only met her that one time in August of 2009?

I really felt VALUED. She understood my NEEDS and went out of her way to create this wonderful experience. I will continue to take all my business to Tatianna, because I felt so special, appreciated and important, and I will continue to be loyal to her store for fostering a caring culture.

Customers can go anywhere to shop, to bank, and to spend their money. As employees, we need to take responsibility for ensuring a special experience for each and every customer we interact with each day. For the past 25 years, I’ve worked in an environment where customer service is an integral part of the business culture. Along with my staff and other employees, we use every opportunity to make the customer’s experience extra special. As an employee in any business, it begins with you! You may be the only person in your organization that the customer speaks with that day. How can you make that interaction special? I think it’s very easy, just smile, use the customer’s name, make a positive statement, listen to them (really listen), and thank them for doing business with you. You can create an amazing experience through your level of service and build loyal customers who share the good news about you, and your businesses with their friends, neighbors, and coworkers. In today’s busy business world, the experience can make the difference.

A resident of Chelmsford, Vice President Sandi Wilson is a Regional Business and Community Development Specialist with Enterprise Bank, 910 Andover Street in Tewksbury. She has been involved in many civic and charitable endeavors in our community. Sandi was honored with the Bennie Armstrong Award from the NAACP in 2009. She can be reached at 978-656-5526, or Sandra.wilson@ebtc.com.

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