Are your customers loyal or are they returning due to habit or the inertia of not wanting to invest the energy to find an alternative? For some businesses, it is easy for customers to change. For others, it takes a bit of work so customers continue to patronize a business even after the quality of the product or service has declined.
I recently had a customer service representative for an insurance company thank me for my loyalty to which I responded: “Don’t confuse loyalty with inertia.” They were taken aback by my response but I had been disappointed with my agent’s service for some time and it has only been my busy schedule and limited agent interaction that kept me from making a change. Fortunately (for me) and unfortunately (for my prior agent) that question alone was the spark I needed to look for a new agent.
The straw that broke the camel’s back literally came the next day when I was trying to get a loaner car and was carrying an expired insurance card. At 4:30 in the afternoon no one answered my insurance agent’s phone. Typical, but even had someone answered their employee turnover is so high that the person answering is almost always too new to help. I solved the insurance card problem without their assistance. It was now after 5:00 and I returned a call from a new agent hoping to get my business. He had time to see me before he left for the day. I went straight to his office and made the switch. While I was there, he showed me the app they have so that I can always have my current insurance card on my phone . . . apparently, I’m not the only one who forgets to put the new card in their wallet.
This story is one of the reasons I am a fan of tools that are aimed at better understanding the customer experience. For a business to improve customer service, they have to understand their service levels from the perspective of the customer. A business should actively solicit customer feedback . . . and it doesn’t have to be a formal survey. A visit from the company owner or president is likely to turn up some interesting insights.
Further, it’s important to seek out problems in order to find areas to meaningfully improve. Some of your most frustrated customers won’t bother to spend the time to respond to a survey. I have literally scribbled “your service is terrible” across surveys and given my phone number to see if anyone would call me. I have never gotten a call. The business wasted a great opportunity to get candid feedback.
The goal of these tools isn’t to validate that things are OK. Too often, customer surveys are considered a waste of money because no one really digs in and understands unique experiences that are driving the numbers. Customer experiences can’t be understood statistically without the person interpreting them having actually experienced what the customer encounters. It’s also important to keep in mind that the buying process is more emotional than analytical. The goal is to hear from the most outspoken customers and consider the validity of their feedback, learn from it, and improve the customer experience.
Are your customers true fans or are they returning out of habit or just haven’t yet taken the time to actively seek an alternative? Unless they are true fans, it only takes a chance encounter with a better vendor or one event that loses a customer forever.
If your customers can’t honestly say that they would recommend your business to a friend then they are at risk. What keeps your customers coming back . . . is it loyalty or inertia?
If your business could benefit from fractional CFO services, I would welcome the chance to speak with you. Please give me a call at (314) 863-6637 or send an email to For more information, visit www.homza.com
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