Updated January 1, 1 . AmFam Team
Behind every successful business is a host of happy customers. No matter how great your product or how sound your finances, you should strive to provide a painless and intuitive customer experience in order for your company to thrive.
“If you make things easier for customers, they’re going to keep coming back,” says Patricia B. Seybold, founder and CEO of the Patricia Seybold Group, a worldwide strategic business and technology consulting and research firm. On the other hand, a cumbersome or annoying exchange can alienate potential customers. “If they run into a snafu or have trouble dealing with you, they won’t come back and do business with you next time,” Seybold adds. Even worse, “they’ll probably tell ten friends.”
If you want to improve your odds of getting repeat business, Seybold offers these tips for streamlining your processes and improving overall customer experience.
Pay attention to complaints. The easiest way to identify where your customers are getting bogged down is to simply ask them. Customer service and billing are typically the areas that garner the most gripes. “When a customer has a problem with one of your products or services, how easy and fast is it to get resolution?” asks Seybold. The longer your clients have to wait for a problem to be resolved, the more unhappy they will be with your company. Ideally, you should fix the issue the first time the customer contacts you for help.
Put yourself in your clients’ shoes. Chances are your customers will have already spent time trying to deal with a problem before they contact you. Try to anticipate the steps they will take. “If you’re trying to streamline the customer’s process, you have to start where the customer would start,” says Seybold. Then provide tools for them to resolve the issue at its origin before they even have to call for help.
Enlist the power of technology. “Automate sales, billing, and other business processes to speed up transactions and allow your buyers to move forward at their own convenience,” advises Seybold. But don’t forget to make it easy for clients to contact a live person when necessary, since some might not be technologically savvy, or have problems that can’t be easily resolved.
Don’t neglect in-house inefficiencies. Internal bottlenecks in your operations can also create headaches for customers. For example, the credit department could cause the sales process to slow down, or sales could make promises that production can’t deliver. The key to avoiding this problem is improving communications throughout the organization and getting all departments on the same page. “The solution is that they have combined metrics that don’t conflict with each other,” says Seybold.
If you keep track of the areas where customers get frustrated when dealing with your company, and take the steps necessary to streamline the process, you can win their loyalty and retain repeat business. “Pay attention to customer feedback,” Seybold says. “Don’t take anything for granted.”
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