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To Achieve Customer Satisfaction…Don't Focus on It!

Focus on what it takes to put points on the board
In, virtually, every entrepreneurial business, customer satisfaction becomes an important objective.  Sometimes, it’s just part of the way a company wants to do business. In others, it’s a reaction; maybe to a series of negative emails or tweets or Facebook posts about their product or their service.

What about the 3% that aren't
satisfied Geico customers?

But, customer satisfaction is a result; usually, of successfully executing a series of fundamental processes, procedures, and guidelines in multiple areas of the company, often, only indirectly related to the actual customer.

You don’t manage results. You manage the process. You don’t focus on the scoreboard.  You focus on what it will take to put points on the board.

But, too many businesses are obsessed with a “customer satisfaction level” – some arbitrary, very subjective number that they think will do it.

Geico has a commercial built around their 97% customer satisfaction level. How about those 3% that aren’t? Isn’t a 100% satisfaction every company’s goal? Wouldn’t it have been better to talk about what they’re doing to achieve 100% satisfaction (even if it’s theoretical)? Because that is what gets you customer satisfaction!

The result follows a process. Focus on the process - what you’re doing and how you’re doing it to achieve the result – the highest satisfaction level possible. So let’s do just that. Let’s focus on the processes necessary to get the highest possible customer satisfaction.

It starts with your culture.

How does your culture value customers? Many small businesses give lip service to the concept of being “customer-centric.”  To be truly customer-centric, every major decision about product, support or marketing should be focused on “showing” customers (as opposed to “telling” customers) their importance to the business.  For your employees, they need to understand that the customer is the reason the company exists. The customer pays their salaries.  Without customers, their job doesn’t exist. And that has to be an “all-in” concept, across the company, in the values and culture as driven by ownership, down to the part-time person answering the phones.

It’s manifested by how you treat your employees.

I’ve, previously, written an entire blog post about this.  Employees will treat customers the way they are treated. If employees feel valued and respected, they will reflect that in how they treat customers. Focus on employee satisfaction, and the processes you need to have in place to ensure it.  Whenever I was an owner or CEO, I held a one-hour, one-on-one closed door meeting with every employee in the company, at least once a year; more frequently, if it was a smaller company.  No questions off limits, no notes and the “seal of confessional,” applied, both ways. I learned more in those sessions and was able to make more process changes that improved employee morale and satisfaction than anything else I’ve ever tried. And it reflected itself in the way they interacted with customers and the customers’ satisfaction level. If employees know you’re listening, and more important, will act, it increases the value and respect they feel and loyalty that engenders. And that gets manifested in their interactions with customers, tenfold.

Not all customers are created equal. The customers you most want to satisfy might not tell you they’re unhappy…until they go away.

Customer, especially some of your best ones, won’t always tell you when or if they are unhappy.  They simply go elsewhere for their business. And so, you have to do more than just survey your customers. You have to have as many direct feedback channels and channels of communication as possible. Always have a place on your website, Facebook page or Twitter account that gives customers a forum. And how about a “hotline” where a customer can leave a message for the CEO, or better yet, talk directly, certain times of the day. My brother used a technique like this he used to call “Talk to the Boss,” when he was running a bunch of radio stations.  He, simply, got the best and most direct feedback ever from his customers from that and it enabled him to make changes that helped keep customers engaged.

High customer satisfaction levels are the result of good customer relationships.

Relationships are not built on simply words.  Relationships are built by people interaction and engagement.  The more you can have with your customer, the better and deeper a potential relationship. You can’t expect tweets to build a relationship.  You can’t expect your automatic customer service telephone system (which makes it impossible to speak with a live person) to make a customer, or prospective customer, feel “warm and fuzzy” about a relationship with your company. You’ve got to interact.  Reach out.  Call customers after a sale and thank them.  Review their experience; ask them what you could have done better.  And whatever you do, don’t ever, ever, ever have anyone, ask a stupid question at the end of a customer call like “and have I satisfied you today?”

Satisfaction is contagious. Take credit.

Customers like to do business with companies that have happy customers.  It tells them you care, not just about your product but that the product is filling a customer need, very well. And customer satisfaction is contagious.  Shout about satisfied customers to the rooftops, especially in their words. People notice. Take credit when you’ve done something well. List the quotes from email, voicemail, Facebook, Twitter, etc.  People like to do business with winners.  

Customer satisfaction is not a number.  It is a state of mind. The number is a result.  Focus not on the result, but on the processes that get you that result. From your culture to your employees to the way you listen and build relationships and create a place customers are, indeed, satisfied.

"The Entrepreneur's Yoda" knows these things.  He's been there.  May success be with you!

How do try to achieve and manage customer satisfaction?  Please share your thoughts in your comments.  It can help another entrepreneur or small business owner.

If you like this post, by all means, share it with your networks and colleagues.

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