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A traveler attempting to book a ticket by phone became frustrated after choosing from a menu of endless options then waiting on hold for 20 minutes before eventually being transferred twice, the second time to a dial tone! When she called back, the first live person she connected with got an earful of her frustration about what had transpired and how poor the customer service was.

The agent responded without hesitation stating, “Oh, well we’re not doing that anymore.” “Not doing what?” inquired the caller. “The customer service thing….we tried that before and it wasn’t working for us.” While the airline representative was undoubtedly joking in an effort to make light of a bad situation, his sarcasm is actually a serious assessment of the customer satisfaction attitude that transpires all too often.

From clusters of retail clerks engaging in personal conversation while a shopper waits patiently to be acknowledged, to grocery stores having only one register open at 5 p.m. on a weekday, customer satisfaction levels decrease while customer frustration levels increase.

It’s become too common for an employee to respond to an inquiry from a customer as if their request is an imposition. As a result, potential buyers often feel compelled to apologize for the inconvenience their need for assistance has caused.

Ways to improve customer satisfaction:

Set Expectations
It is probably true that common sense isn’t so common any more. In the context of customer satisfaction, that means that client service expectations need to be established and not assumed. As the world becomes increasingly more electronic, it is even more important that a focus on personalization is not deleted from ”business to end-user” relationships. Defining appropriate actions and attitudes will ensure a clear definition of what is and isn’t acceptable to protect the reputation of the company.

Provide Training
Highlight guidelines that identify appropriate resolutions to common issues to assist employees in both their initial learning curve as well as part of their ongoing development. An extension of that educational process is to depict examples of typical scenarios and suitable end results then practice them in hypothetical settings through small group application exercises. These activities will enhance long-term behavioral modification and reduce turnover.

Take Action
It has been said that there is no advance without chance and where there’s no guts—there’s no glory! Equally true is that insubordination requires ramification! While it can be difficult to exercise authority for noncompliance to customer satisfaction expectations, the impact of not taking action can be insurmountable. Company-wide complacency is contagious and when one’s lackadaisical attitude is overlooked, the interpretation by their associates is that it is acceptable behavior. This is devastating to any department and incredibly difficult to reverse.

Benefits of focusing on exceptional customer satisfaction:

Up-sell Opportunities
Ultimately, it is the buying experience that mostly impacts the decision to buy more than intended. Advertisements are inundated with discounts and incentives, but it is the customer satisfaction factor more than anything else, that encourages a decision to purchase.

Word-of-Mouth Marketing
The best compliment is a recommendation and the most expensive advertising is a bad customer experience that is shared with others. The last loaf of bread at the mom & pop market was dated yesterday. When a shopper inquired about the half-price deal on day-old bread available at the competing grocery store in town, the owner replied that he doesn’t offer discounts like that because his vendor gives him back 80 percent on leftovers with the next day’s order. That $3.00 loaf of bread gained 90 cents more profit from the supplier than if sold at 50 percent off to the customer. But how much did it actually cost when factoring in the negative customer experience?

No, the customer is not always right; but the customer does always have the right to make the final buying decision. Therefore, the way a prospective buyer is treated really does matter—with respect to their initial buy, their future purchase considerations and for the story they tell of their experience.

Diane Ciotta is the founder of The Keynote Effect, where she presents a passionate message of accountability and encourages activities to conquer complacency.

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