Of all the touch points you have with your customers, it's the people who take care of them on your behalf that matter the most. Empowering them to find ways to make customers a little bit happier can pay off in big ways. According to Forrester's Customer Index, customer-centric companies gained 43% in performance compared to a 33.9% decrease for companies who have neglected their customer experience.
This doesn't mean you have to have a Zappos-like commitment to creating customer happiness to improve your bottom line. Today's consumers have been trained to expect the worst from most companies, from airlines to phone companies to cable companies. It's gotten to the point, as Peter Shankman said on a recent Six Pixels of Separation podcast, that "these days you don't have to offer the best customer service, you just have to offer one step up from crap." Which means you don't have to spend big money on a whole new customer service system or giant spiffs to your salespeople. You just need to come up with a way to be a little better than your competition.
So, take a look at your operations and customer service policies. Do you have some requirements that make it a little easier for you from an operational standpoint but are big irritants for your customers? What would it take to remove those irritants and create not only more loyal customers, but ones who will go out into the world as an evangelist for you? Where can you empower your customer-facing employees to offer suggestions or services that won't cost you more than just a little effort? If an employee knows they can so some little things on their own to make the customer happy, that they have the power to use their own imagination and intuition, it not only improves your customer service, but your employee morale as well.
You may find there are little things you can do that are fairly easy and inexpensive (if not downright free) to do that can take you from one of those downward trending companies in the Forrester Index to one making profitable strides. If you've made some changes and would like to share, I'd love to hear about how it's helping your customers and your company. you can do this. After all, how much effort does it really take to offer services just one level above crap?