Customer satisfaction is essential to the success of every business. No matter what your product or service, no matter who your clients are, satisfying them and keeping them happy remains key to profit and growth. It was not for nothing that Ford Motors used “Quality is Job 1″ for many years. The company’s consumer research concluded that build quality was the best way to satisfy its customers.
How many of us have suffered at the hands of a surly employee or an unpleasant company representative? How many stories have been told about various businesses that wouldn’t spend the few seconds necessary to pleasantly address a customer’s complaint? How many times have people made statements to the effect that, if someone had taken a few seconds longer to handle an issue pleasantly, customers would have remained loyal instead of taking their business elsewhere?
Whether businesses are experiencing years of massive growth, or a one-time rapid expansion, one of the areas that always suffers is customer service. As businesses grow they get so consumed with handling the needs of new customers that the disputes, complaints and problems of existing customers get low-priority treatment. Overall customer satisfaction suffers.
However, once growth rates slow down, the competition levels out and the playing field shifts. Businesses now change their focus to attracting new customers from their competitors and keeping their existing customers loyal. And one of the ways this plan is best enacted is by enhancing customer satisfaction.
You have likely seen overnight changes taking place in some of the growing, prospering retail establishments you frequent. Instead of one beleaguered employee who shifts her duties between inventory control and customer satisfaction, there are now two employees handling complaints – and that is their only job. Airlines that have historically treated their passengers like cattle are suddenly treating their economy flyers like first-class passengers.
The Internet has been called the great leveller of the playing field for new businesses, because new and innovative products and services can gain access to millions of people quickly and easily. And while it can be argued that the failure rate of businesses on the Internet is influenced by funding, business models and marketing plans – just like brick and mortar businesses – the World Wide Web absolutely requires of new businesses that they maintain high levels of customer satisfaction right from the launch.
Customer satisfaction on the Internet remains the number one priority for all new ventures for a variety of reasons. To begin with, the most attractive feature of the Internet is the ease it offers people. Many of the things they used to do outside the home, they can now do in the comfort of their own living rooms. The Internet has made it unnecessary to shop in retail stores, visit libraries and do a whole host of other errands that used to require a short trip.
The internet has a downside, of course. Many people simply don’t trust the impersonal nature of handling important tasks on their computer. This stigma is overcome by a concerted effort to make people comfortable shopping and doing other things online. In other words, customer satisfaction.
Once the initial resistance is overcome, customers will either revert to their pre-Internet shopping routines or, worse, search for competitors’ websites and shift to them if their first experience was unsatisfactory. And this means that beyond the price of the items or services they purchased, all other aspects of the exchange have to have been satisfactory.
The shipping has to be professional and timely. The product has to have been represented accurately. And any issues, complaints or questions about the service must be addressed quickly, pleasantly and professionally by the website or the company has not only lost a customer, they’ve probably encouraged her to post a negative comment on some consumer blog. There are numerous such blogs that collect and distribute data on customer satisfaction.
The Internet, the great leveller of the playing field for businesses, also levels it for customers who can find any number of places to post negative web experiences and get their stories heard. Smart website operators know this, and it means that customer satisfaction is a top priority, wherever the customer interaction occurs.
On the Internet the customer is always right, even more so than in the real world, and that remains a top attraction for new online customers. Ensuring their satisfaction is, in fact, the primary means of engendering your customers’ loyalty.