Cindy Solomon is a WBC2011 Keynote Speaker and is the Founder & President of Cindy Solomon & Associates, Inc.
There are more than 1.3 billion pages on the web with advice on how to secure the loyalty of your customers. There’s a whole section in your local bookstore offering to reveal the secrets of flawless customer service. Call me crazy, but I’ve read a healthy portion of these books and blogs. After 20 years in the business, I find it amazing how much of this advice should be filed under “fiction.” In the interest of saving you a little bit of time (and money), here are four of the most damaging assertions. Myth #1: The latest high-tech gadgets and applications will really impress your customers. If you’re like most modern businesspeople, technology has become an essential part of your operation. From being über-available via your smart phone to managing policies back at the office, you rely on technology to get the job done. So it’s easy to start believing that the more gadgets and applications you inject into your business, the more successful you’ll be. Don’t get me wrong, I like technology as much as the next person. But not every new invention is right for you, or your customers. To make sure you’re not falling prey to the more-is-better myth, ask yourself this: What technology do I have to constantly work around in order to provide my customers with efficient, personalized service? Got something in mind? Get rid of it! Myth #2: Customer satisfaction is the most important metric you can focus on. Research has shown that a whopping 80 percent of customers who switch to a competitor claimed to be “satisfied” with the former provider. The lesson here is that you cannot depend on satisfaction to create loyal customers. Your customers need and deserve more. So how do you give it to them? By allowing yourself to be vulnerable. By asking the questions to which you don’t necessarily want to know the answers. When you acknowledge to your customers that you genuinely want to hear their issues and concerns as well as their praise, you invite them to become a part of your business on a deeper level than mere transactions can provide. That, my friend, will garner far more loyalty than any customer satisfaction survey ever could. Myth #3: You have to exceed expectations to create loyalty. The truth is, most customers don’t like surprises. They would be thrilled if you simply set clear expectations and then met them consistently. Assuming you offer a competitive price and quality service, you don’t need to exceed anything. Customers simply want to be able to trust you and your ability to keep your word. When you are up front and honest about what your customers can expect—and what they can’t expect—they will be willing to give you the benefit of the doubt. Consistently meeting expectations also protects you when a customer has an issue. If you have a trusting relationship, your customers are 40 percent more likely to stay loyal and forgive you when you make the occasional, inevitable blunder. Myth #4: If you have your poor performers work alongside your “A” players, they’ll improve. You have high hopes when you hire them. The chemistry seems right. They have some experience. Then one day you realize your diamond-in-the-rough is driving your customers away. The easy solution is to put your poor performers in the back room with a pile of “busy work.” Or pair them with your superstars and hope for some osmosis. But research shows that, in a team of five, one poor performer can bring down the team’s overall productivity by more than 40 percent. Think about that for a minute. For the sake of your customers, your high performers and your business don’t spend another minute running a reform school for your bad hires. Fire them! A little pain to your pride now will save you a lot of headaches later.