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Falling in Love with Your Customers

Optimize Blog - May 29, 2015 - 0 comments

Some time ago we wrote a paper entitled “a man who doesn’t smile should not open a shop”. The paper was concerned with the importance of customer service and the impact of great customer service on share of wallet and retention/loyalty of customers to the brand.
As change and business optimization consultants we spend a lot of time with clients enabling them to hone their processes and supporting infrastructure to deliver a high level of consistent service. However, this is not quite enough.
Research shows that just providing a great, consistent service is an absolutely essential requirement but it is not where the organization should stop. Customers transacting remotely via effective internet channels for example are proven to be ambivalent to loyalty to the company. The excellent on line service but basic, run of the mill transactions, generally precludes the ability for the organization to form an emotional bond with the customer.  The emotional bond though is what drives loyalty and potentially greater profits.
So how does an organization form that emotional bond with its customer base?
One very high risk strategy is to make mistakes with all of your customers and then be very good at fixing the mistake. Evidence clearly shows that customers that have had a problem resolved are more loyal to that company than to a company that has performed well and never had to fix anything. Perverse and counter intuitive and yet true.
We don’t advocate such a high risk strategy although being brilliant at fixing problems is definitely something we get our clients to focus on. But what else needs to be done?
Given the clear link between “moments of truth” and share of wallet, every customer-facing business should identify the points of interaction relevant to its industry – those interactions when customers invest a high amount of emotional energy in the outcome. In airlines, for example, there are about 30 of these potential service interactions, from reservations and upgrade requests to check-in, boarding procedures and baggage handling.
For many organizations what’s regularly missing is the connection between the customer and front line staff members—the spark that helps transform jaded and skeptical people into strong and committed customers. It is Emotional Intelligence – emotionally driven behavior – that creates the connection and enables the organization to earn trust and loyalty during “moments of truth”.
Emotional intelligence in a service environment typically manifests itself through four key characteristics:
• A strong sense of self-empowerment and self-regulation, which enables employees to make decisions on the spot
• A positive outlook culture, promoting constructive responses to the challenges of work
• An awareness of own and other people’s feelings, creating empathy and facilitating better dialogue with customers
• The ability to tap into selfless motives, which make it possible for employees to express feelings of empathy and caring
From a leadership perspective there needs to be consistent investment in influencing the front line’s emotional intelligence. Great leaders do this in four ways:
• Creating meaning and clarity of purpose for people in front line work, thereby influencing their thoughts, feelings, values, beliefs, and behaviors
• Improving the capabilities of employees—and influencing their mind-sets—so that they acquire the right emotional skills not just technical skills
• Putting structures, reward systems, and processes in place to back up these changes (accepting that incentives may come with unintended consequences)
• Acting as role models and consistently demonstrating emotionally intelligent behavior
In one survey we came across conducted by a bank, after a positive experience, more than 85 percent of customers increased their value to the bank by purchasing more products or investing more of their assets. Just as tellingly, more than 70 percent reduced their commitment when things failed to live up to expectation.
Time to invest in some front line EI then……..

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