| Focusing on Consistency (Part 2)
Consistently pleasant customer experiences produce "raving
fans" who spread positive "buzz" about our products
and services. In contrast, even a single unhappy experience can
sour a customer, who may then take her business elsewhere. This
customer often doesn't inform us of the reason -- but does tend
to rant unhappily to an even wider circle of friends, according
to the American Management Association.
In Part 1 of this series, we saw how consumers are able to exercise
their choices to achieve the most enjoyable and efficient experiences
possible. This article, Part 2, explores four more techniques
that can help ensure top-to-bottom consistency in creating positive
Reviewing the First
Two Ingredients in the Recipe
The recipe for customer satisfaction contains several key ingredients
that pertain to quality, business systems, marketing/sales, customer
service, and good common sense. Two of the basic ingredients we
covered in Part 1 were:
* It's far more cost effective to keep existing customers than
to find new ones. Why? Customer retention research shows that
once companies have loyal customers, the cost of keeping them
is just one-fifth the cost of attracting new ones. Therefore,
it makes sense to continuously and consistently delight them.
* It's critical not to over-promise and under-deliver. Either
we can under-promise and over-deliver -- or, over-promise and
over-deliver -- but, at all costs, we should strive not to under-deliver.
Our credibility and trustworthiness evaporate whenever we make
promises we can't keep.
Next, let's look at four additional success criteria.
Ingredient #3: Prevent Variation
in Service and Product Quality
For services, preventing variation means being unfailingly helpful
and pleasant in all customer interactions. It means that personnel
must be able to satisfy all of the company's advertised claims.
And they'll also need an understanding of the creative latitude
they'll have to meet customers' special needs, to offer the greatest
possible "quality in perception." In these ways, personnel
will have the means by which to "wow" customers -- over-delivering
by giving even more than customers expect.
For products, preventing variation means ensuring that every article
produced conforms as tightly as possible to the ideal -- as close
to perfection as you can make it. Unlike what you may have learned
about quality decades ago, this requires going beyond merely staying
within tolerances, which was the "old school" of quality
thinking. The reason is that weaknesses can arise from being "barely
within specs" -- possibly enough to cause system failure.
It's far more likely when several critical values together are
all "barely within specs," because the effects can accumulate.
Ingredient #4: Ensure Your Customers'
Ask yourself: Are you most heavily focused on your own immediate
gain -- your own business results -- or do you express a vested
interest in ensuring that your customers will succeed? If your
emphasis is truly on your customers' success, then how about your
customers' customers' success, or even that of your customers'
customers' customers? By consistently emphasizing the downstream
chain of successes that your customers and their customers will
enjoy, you will create consistent, perpetual value for all who
use your offerings.
Ingredient #5: Create Theme-Oriented
Products and Services
You can design an imaginative suite of coordinated components
with theme names, slogans, mascots, music, literature, accessories,
and services. Such ensembles will spark your customers' imaginations
and entice them to buy one after another in the desire to complete
a set. Many companies have learned that customers will gladly
pay a premium for a group of collectibles while raving to their
family and friends.
An example of an enterprise that has experienced extraordinary
results using this technique is American Girl. This company pairs
authentic doll characters with historically researched novels
that tell the life stories and adventures of the dolls. It also
sells coordinated outfits, period furniture, and accessories --
even hair styling services! American Girl has quietly exploded
from a tiny mail-order business into a $344 million firm using
mostly word-of-mouth advertising. It creates wholesome, educational
offerings for which their ever-expanding clientele gladly pay
Ingredient #6: Design a Mesmerizing,
Theme-Based Buying Experience
Taking theme ideas even further, you can create a whimsical buying
atmosphere for your customers, either in a physical storefront,
online store, or both. Your staff might wear costumes or use custom
scripts to keep in step with the characters or theme. The novelty
and entertainment value can spark customers' imaginations, attracting
avid buyers in markets such as toys, technology, hotels, clothing,
accessories, and foods.
In the area of foods, Trader Joe's, which has stores primarily
on the east and west coasts of the U.S., has enjoyed remarkable
popularity over the last several decades. Everything Trader Joe's
does revolves around a tropical, nautical motif. The theme dictates
what staff members wear, the decorations in the stores, and the
unique, exotic, low-cost, private-label foods it sells. Walking
into any store feels like arriving at an island vacation spot.
The clang of ship's bells punctuates the sounds of Hawaiian shirt-clad
staff members chatting cheerfully with customers. The quality,
selection, value, and whimsical, theme-based atmosphere attract
a steadily growing base of "raving fan" shoppers.
In conclusion, these powerful tips can help you create customer
satisfaction, loyalty, and endless word-of-mouth promotion. To
reap the benefits of the fun and creative ideas, however, don't
overlook the foundational aspects. This means being sure to over-deliver
on what you promise while maintaining consistency in your product
and service quality.
About the Author :
Adele Sommers, Ph.D. is the author of the award-winning "Straight
Talk on Boosting Business Performance" success program. She
helps people "discover and recover" the profits their
businesses may be losing daily through overlooked performance
potential. Adele is a business consultant and the president of
an award-winning chapter of the Society for Technical Communication
(STC). To learn more about her tools and resources, visit her
site at http://LearnShareProsper.com.
on Consistency (Part 1)
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