Customer Perception IS Reality

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29th May 2018

One of the most important facts for any business owner is that your existing customers are VITAL to the success of your business. This is not exclusive to tough times, but applicable any time.

Did you know that for an “average business,” two thirds of the clients who leave do so because they feel they are not cared about – they feel they are just another number, a monetary transaction.

The movement of customers and clients to other suppliers in your industry is normal. It may depend on the advertising, on the offers available, but rest assured it WILL happen.

What would it mean to your business if you can hold onto the customers you already have for longer? How would it be if your clients stayed with you because of the value-based relationship you have built with them rather than simply being drawn away by the competition purely on price discounts?

Being seen to care about your clients, and creating a true “Customer Satisfaction” policy in your business, however, is challenging.

Extensive research has shown the following important fact…

98% of all unhappy or dissatisfied customers were not unhappy or dissatisfied because of a quality problem with the product or service. Their dissatisfaction was related to their perception of how they were treated by the people they dealt with.

Now the important point here is that I said the “perception” of how they were treated – not necessarily how they WERE treated.

This is a very important point.

It means that in many of the research cases, the employees involved did actually treat the customers fairly, courteously and tried the best they could – BUT, what they did is not the issue.

It’s how the customer PERCEIVED what they did that matters.

The way you deal with a customer or client has to do with controlling their perception.

It’s not really about being “right” in a given situation, but actually looking beyond the situation to the fact it is far more important to “win” in the relationship with the client.

Let me put it another way…

The Number 1 reason why a business loses customers is because their perception is that they were treated discourteously or unfairly by the company’s employees with whom they interacted.

A short while ago I wrote an article about how creating client partnerships is key to beating the effects of a recession (or for that matter at any time). I gave examples of a restaurant, a mobile phone company and an energy provider where I, or people I know personally, have recently had problems which could easily have been avoided or prevented altogether.

Yet, in each case the company could have taken a different approach.

What if the company had taken the view that the customer might have been right, or that even if they were wrong, the Lifetime Value of that customer was worth “taking a hit” by trying to do something to appease the customer and avoid things escalating?

This would make a HUGE difference to their businesses. And it would also stand them head and shoulders above their competition.

But if you’ve ever worked in a customer services role, you will know it also has its downsides…

In recent years, especially since the explosion of low cost travel, there has been a massive increase in criticism of the airline industry. Complaints from passengers have rocketed. Almost everyone travelling is experiencing problems with canceled or delayed flights, lost luggage and an [apparently] declining quality of service.

Did you ever watch the series “Airline,” where EasyJet opened its doors to a warts-and-all-fly-on-the-wall view of some of the issues and problems in running the airline?

It not only showed the customers’ side to the problems caused by delays or lost luggage, but it also showed the almost thankless task the check-in staff had in dealing with travellers who were actually quite abusive, or drunk, or late for a flight or on a couple of occasions where the person travelling forgot their passport!

Someone forgot to bring their passport and then proceeded to criticise the check-in staff because they wouldn’t allow him to travel… as if it was their fault!

But you see – to the customer the check-in staff ARE the company.

In one of the programmes a member of staff said something to the effect of “Imagine how difficult it is to come to work each morning, knowing in advance that you are going to have to deal with a lot of people who are both angry and frustrated with you – even though it’s not our fault. To these people… we’re the airline.”

And she was right.

It is the people in the firing line – those who deal directly with the customers and clients – who are the ones who will ultimately save or destroy a business. They are the ones who will buy the company time and give them the opportunity to sort out problems or issues without losing customers in the process.

It doesn’t matter whether you are an airline, a mobile phone provider, a restaurant, a retail outlet, a web solutions provider or an accountancy practice.

Whatever your business, the people who answer the phones, respond to the emails and deal with customers face-to-face actually control the destiny of the company.

So why is this so important for you to understand for your business?

Because REPEAT BUSINESS is CRITICAL to the long-term success of your business.

There is a substantial cost to any business in acquiring a new customer or client. Just think about all of the money you spend on advertising, publicity, brochures, direct mail, signage etc., to bring new customers through your door or to get them to make that initial call to you.

In a lot of businesses if you actually look at the figures closely, you will see that they will actually LOSE money on the first sale to a new customer.

But the real profit – the profit that will make sure the company survives – comes from the second, third, fourth and fifth sale to the customer.

Without repeat business most businesses will fail, and this repeat business has far more to do with the way you treat customers – in the way customers PERCEIVE you treat them – than it has to do with the actual products or services themselves.

Off the top of my head as I am writing this I can’t think of ANY business that can sustain itself indefinitely from a continual stream of new one-purchase-only-ever transactions.

Take a look at what you are doing and the way you are dealing with your clients. What can you and your staff do differently to build better client partnerships?

Where can you save on marketing for lead generation by focusing on generating better business from the clients you already have?

Yes, we all have those “not him on the phone again” moments, but either swallow it and deal with it, or if they really are that bad to deal with, pass them to one of your competitors.

If you would like to share any of your personal experiences, observations or the results you’ve achieved using these or similar tips, please leave your comments and/or thoughts below. I always love to hear from you:

Featured Photo by Mathilda Khoo on Unsplash.com

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