Currently, I have observed that an increasing number of our clients, across various sectors, have asked a similar question: “what do our customers really think of us and what are they saying about us.” I would venture to say, in certain circumstances, this curiosity has been piqued by our clients giving greater credence to what they are seeing and reading in the social world of PR: Twitter, Facebook, and beyond. Being aware is important, and being responsive is critical. Social media has opened up a world of conversation – both good and bad – and if this new evolving world of communication helps businesses focus on their customer service and relationships, then their bottom-line may just be the beneficiary.
In doing some desktop research on the subject after a recent client review meeting, I came across an interesting article in the Harvard Business Review – Closing the Customer Feedback Loop, by Rob Markey, Fred Reichheld and Andreas Dullweber. The article describes how a branch manager with Charles Schwab has created a daily practice of paying attention to what her company’s customers are thinking. They found that listening can give great insight which in turn helps give support for problem solving and forges positive long-standing customer relations.
Reading the article made me think, if a company such as Charles Schwab, with worldwide reach, can have a daily listening ritual, this should tell us all that we have no excuse. It took recognition and action for Schwab to elevate itself to becoming a listening company, and in fact they pointed to that deficiency in their annual report: “We had lost our connection with our clients—and that had to change,” as referenced in the article in HBR.
A quality company, or good salesperson for that matter, can sell anything to anyone once – however, good customer service and lasting customer relations will be a leading indicator to predict whether or not the customer and client remain as such. Maintaining and growing your business relies more than ever on a solid foundation of good customer service. And, the cornerstone of good customer service is forging a relationship with your customers.
When I recently made that recommendation to a client, their question was: “So, how do I go about forming a strong and lasting relationship with my customer?” My response was something that I learned from a successful CEO years ago. I recall a conversation whereby he said you start by committing to a simple but important principle: ”You will be judged by what you do, not just what you say.”