How easy is it to do business with you?
How many of you have ever used AOL as your Internet Service Provider? How many of you have fired them as your vendor?
I ask this question of every group I’m in front of. On average, half of the people in the audience raise their hands. If the response to my informal survey is typical, AOL loses nearly half of its customers.
Now, how is this possible-and why did this occur? When I ask my audience, some of the service horror examples they scream out include “lousy service” and “no live human being to talk to” and “rude people.”
Then I ask: “How many of you received additional bills from AOL after you cancelled your service?” With a look of frustration and disgust on their faces, half of the people in the audience raise their hands. Then I ask: “If you dropped AOL, did you tell others about how you were mistreated or billed again and again for a service you discontinued? Guess what? Everyone’s hand goes up.
On a personal note: At one time my company had five AOL accounts. We fought to get a live person on the telephone when we needed help, and we got frustrated with their software. As a result, we cancelled our service, but received bills for months-which brought on more aggravation and frustration.
What does this mean? And how do you know that similar scenarios are not occurring in your company? After all, it’s easy to talk about lousy service when it’s someone else’s company, but it’s much more difficult to address it in your own backyard.
What are you doing to ensure that your customer service is at “loyalty” level? Most companies measure customer “satisfaction,” and they’re happy when their customers are “satisfied.” But to me, “satisfaction” means you’re providing the lowest level of acceptable customer service. Shame on you!
THIS IS WHAT I WANT TO KNOW: Based on the incredible service you provide, will your customers do business with you again, and will they refer other people to you?
UNDERSTAND THIS: When you lose a customer because of lousy service or poor business practices, you lose more than the revenue from that one account. You lose the potential customers your “lost” customer dissuaded, as well as the revenue from the 10 years of loyalty from an average customer. The dollars lost is staggering. And those dollars never appear on any financial statement because they get buried in the sales “category” and are often replaced by dollars from new customers.
Now, if AOL could hold on to 25 percent of the customers they lose, just imagine the additional revenue they would reap.
A LOST CAUSE: Why do customers leave AOL? Because someone in accounting decided that it’s less expensive to have automated answers respond to callers, instead of a real person. It appears that “Press 1-Press 2-Press 3-Press 4-Press hell,” is a better option and a more economical option than having a live human being answer customers’ questions and help solve customers’ problems.
What AOL didn’t figure into the equation was the cost of losing angry and frustrated customers. In the end, AOL could have hired the entire state of
But enough about AOL-let’s talk about you.
How many customers did you lose last year?
How much did it cost you?
What have you done to stop the loss?
What are you doing to create a higher level of service to keep your existing customers?
How much of your marketing outreach budget is spent building loyalty among existing customers so they refer new customers?
From my 51 years of sales experience, I have found that it’s easier to make a sale than it is to keep a customer. After you make the sale-which is the most expensive part of doing business-the object of the game is to get the customer to stay, to do more business with you, to talk about you in a nice way, and to get others to call you.
Unfortunately, most businesses do not participate in this game-the game that creates customer LOYALTY.
When I ask my audiences if they are frustrated by or hate automated telephone systems, EVERY SINGLE PERSON RAISES A HAND-SOMETIMES TWO HANDS. With all the grumbling about automated telephone systems, you would think someone would get it. But this is only one minor source of frustration that drives customers away.
To make sure you don’t drive your customers away, implement the following 5.5 steps that create customer loyalty:
1. Make it easy to do business with you. How easy is it to do business with you? Can I place an order 24/7? Anything less is not easy.
2. Have live human beings answer the phones. If a customer has a question or a problem, how easy is it to talk to a person? How easy should it be?
3. Hire friendly people. Answer this VERY IMPORTANT question: How friendly are your people?
4. Take advantage of leading-edge technology. Are you two steps ahead of your competitors? Are you using technology to save time, money, and to be more productive?
5. Identify the reasons your customers are leaving and fix them. Take action to eliminate any internal problems.
5.5 Be your own customer. Would you do business with you? Call once a week to find out what it’s like to do business with your company.
Many of you reading this are going to be frustrated because you’re thinking, “There’s nothing I can do about it.” Well, you’re wrong. Contact your five best customers. Ask them to call your company five minutes before the start of your business day and try to place a large order. Then ask them to e-mail their experience to you. Forward that e-mail to your CEO, and sit back to watch the sparks fly.
You may be corporately handcuffed, but your CEO knows that your customers fill your bank accounts.
If you would like to fill your corporate bank accounts, refocus and redouble your efforts on the people that fill them first: your present customers.
FREE GitBit: Want to learn the formula for customer loyalty? Go to www.gitomer.com; register if you’re a first time user, then enter LOYALTY in the GitBit box.
Jeffrey Gitomer, the author of The Sales Bible and The Little Red Book of Selling, is President of Charlotte-based Buy Gitomer. He gives seminars, runs annual sales meetings, and conducts Internet training programs on selling and customer service at www.trainone.com. He can be reached by phone: 704/333-1112 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
c 2004 All Rights Reserved – Don’t even think about reproducing this document without written permission from Jeffrey H. Gitomer and Buy Gitomer 704/333-1112 www.gitomer.com