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Are your customers loyal? Are you sure?

Posted on 04/26/2013 by Ann Ashley

Part 2 of our 3 part Gracious Hospitality series

Last week in our discussion about customer service, we determined that becoming a customer-centric business is critical to successfully compete in today’s economic climate. By “customer-centric” we mean fostering a culture through which you and your employees take significant action to ensure loyalty from your patrons. Your customer must be your top priority. To that end, a good place to start in gaining customer loyalty is to define your service standards – those actions and attitudes you hold everyone in the organization accountable to, and from which your customers reap the benefits.

First Things First

In determining what your organization’s service standards will be, you need look no further than the very person you are trying to impress: your customer.  Why? Because your service standards are defined by what is important to your customers. For example, if you are in a business in which delivering prompt service is of the utmost importance to your customers, then your top service standard should involve delivering prompt service to every customer every time. See how easy that was?

But wait…. building the service standards for your business may not be that simple. What you think is important to your customer may actually not be important to them at all! To uncover what will move your customers to choose your business over the competition you’ll need to do a little detective work.

Start with the source (your customer). Most clients are all too happy to share and, by asking your customers for their opinions in a sincere and personable way, you are likely to leave a favorable impression as an organization that cares about the needs and preferences of its clients – a true win/win!  Another source to investigate is your employees – bring them to the table early as you develop your service standards.  This is a great way to assure their buy-in when you nail these standards to the wall in the break room. 

Another option is to put on your “customer hat” and go into a competitor’s business to observe. By doing this, it may become glaringly obvious what is important to the customer and, perhaps, what your organization is lacking. Just make sure you take off your company t-shirt before you stroll through the competition’s space.

Are your Service Standards Actionable?

What good are standards of service if all they do is hang on a wall? Standards must also be actionable. If personal service and talking to a live person is important to your customers, your service standard should focus on providing personal service.” An actionable step toward this may be to limit the voice recording to a backup system only, put a live voice on the phone at the first ring, and address your customer by name. Your action items should be relevant and attainable in your organization to provide the best personal service possible.

Biltmore has been in the service industry for more than 100 years. Initially, Biltmore was one man’s dream of a country home where he could welcome and entertain his guests in a warm and caring way. Today Biltmore is the pinnacle of gracious hospitality, which is the direct result of established service standards that every employee strives to achieve every day.

“Our service standards are tried-and-true methods of providing exceptional care for our guests. These standards are entrenched in our culture; they are a part of every employee’s duties every day, and they are easy to understand and apply.” – Bill Cecil, Jr, President/CEO of Biltmore, Great-grandson of George Vanderbilt            

As you develop service standards for your business today, you are laying a customer-centric foundation that will become a part of your company culture, and ensure customer loyalty for years to come. 

For more information on the Biltmore Center For Professional Development’s Beyond Customer Service; Gracious Hospitality Best Practices, contact Joyce Pemberton at 828.225.6158. A class is scheduled for Monday, September 23, 2014, May 18, 2015, and October 26, 2015. Class is limited to 15.

 

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