Sustainable business practices are emerging as a priority within forward thinking organizations. These practices apply to many dimensions of the organization, ranging from minimizing waste to encouraging employees to telecommute.
Building sustainable customer relationships – the kind where customers feel a loyalty that brings them back again and again – is one such practice for evolved organizations.
A good product or service is necessary, but not enough to cultivate lasting customer relationships. Customer loyalty grows out of feeling connected to the organization. Therefore, evolved organizations focus on finding opportunities to communicate with their customers. Further, the warmth of an inspired employee has the capacity to permeate the heart of a customer, bringing him back, for potentially, forever.
One way evolved organizations demonstrate an interest in connecting with the customer is by offering multiple channels of communication in order to make it easy for anyone to make a complaint, suggestion or compliment.
Whether the customer is calling to complain or compliment is not as important as the simple fact that they are calling. Just picking up the phone or sending an email indicates that the customer is interested in continuing to use the product or service.
The evolved organization solicits all feedback, disregarding concerns about complaint numbers going up, and replacing it with a sincere desire to hear exactly what the customer has to say. In fact, using the term “feedback" instead of “complaint" is one tool for cultivating an attitude within the organization that welcomes any kind of communication from customers.
Method Products, Inc. , a particularly mindful organization specializing in environmentally friendly cleaning products, is built on sustainable values. Among Method’s many sustainable practices, customer communication is a priority. Customer feedback is the term used at Method Products for all customer communication, and for good reason: a whopping 45% of feedback falls into the compliment category. Comments and suggestions comprise 8%, and questions 32% of customer feedback.
Customer complaints make up a mere 15% of Method Product’s customer feedback. Despite that the complaint numbers are low; Method Products takes them very seriously.
The first part of listening carefully to the customer involves having a solid system in place to capture feedback in a way that is both practical and informative to the organization. Method Products use Everest: Customer Focused Quality, a software product specifically designed to capture customer complaints and feedback.
Each customer who contacts Method Products is greeted by a real person on the phone or receives a candid email response from a passionate and considerate representative of the Method Products team. The data collected in Everest is then reviewed bi-monthly with the brand and product development teams, and quarterly with the management team, all who are eager to hear what customers like, dislike, and suggest.
One illustration of how customer feedback collected through Everest changed product development occurred recently. Everest reports revealed an increase in complaints about a leaky laundry detergent cap. The Method Products team reviewed the data weekly and even questioned customers about their preferences for a new cap. In stores today you will find containers with newly designed leak proof caps.
Method Product’s customers are loyal and enthusiastic. One reason – among many – for this loyalty is a genuine customer focus.
Here are some concrete tips for developing sustainable customer relationships:
Organizations may find that even a slight change in how they handle customer feedback will, over time, yield surprising results – sustainable relationships with customers being the most significant.
Kimberly Kingsley, M. Ed. writes on the topics of personal development and organizational integrity. Her website is http://www.kimberlykingsley.com Lynk Software is the developer of Everest: Customer Focused Quality. For more information, visit http://www.lynksoftware.com