Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Conquest and Challenge Syndrome why customer service is bad and loyalty low

Walk into any store and see if you're noticed.

Look at a few products. Gather them up in your arms, then stand them next to each other on a table or countertop. Stare at them. Scratch your chin. Then your head.

Keeping picking up products and reading their packaging propaganda. Point at parts of the products like you're doing a presentation to an audience. Stamp your feet when you're feeling really frustrated.

Appear quizzical, confused, uncertain. Scurry around, unable to find an item which is not in a logical sector of the store. You'll know what the word alone can really mean.

You're on your own in many American business operations. Your wallet, appearing at frequent intervals,  seems to  be all that really matters. Your satisfaction and loyalty are given lip service. That's as far as it goes. No genuine concern for anything but success, or for some, simple survival.

You, as the customer, need to completely understand your own problem or desire. You must know the dollar amount of what you need to spend to get a good solution. You must know the exact product classification, brand, model, size, or amount that will meet your need.

Don't expect any highly trained, knowledgeable, or friendly staff to greet you, help you, answer your questions, or guide you to the best solution.

Here's where a company can gain a distinct competitive advantage. Using a blog, Facebook, Twitter, and GooglePlus to communicate with customers, advise them, mentor them, become the one with all the answers and a charming personality.

Respond quickly to the slightest movement of any social media participant toward you. Rapidly reply to every like, share, comment, direct message, question, compliment, and suggestion. Be sure to click like and share, and post comments, to other online community members.

Don't just receive attention. Give it. Act like an average person -- who just happens to be making a living with a business. Engage in acts of non-productive, non-sales oriented kindness. Unselfish altruism. Share your expertise. Explain a technicality in plain English. Recommend good links, books, videos, etc. by people you admire in your industry.

Post a quick, nice remark when a fan, follower, or friend in social media uploads a video or photo. It may be a video of a song they like, or a daughter or son's high school graduation photo. Say something pleasant. Avoid anything inappropriate, but be relaxed and in common person mode, with your tie slacked and your shirt sleeves rolled up.

Being warm, human, and personable on social media can be good training for your in-store work in this area. It can set the tone and pave the way to meat space interactions. Either way, you must start somewhere and get all your employees on board, no exceptions. One bad apple can ruin the whole program. Everybody must be in customer service mode at all times, even when contact with customers is not expected.

Customer service needs to be vastly improved, both online and in your place of business. Concentrate on getting across this plan of improved customer relations in your social networks, website, YouTube, and other internet presences. Additionally, you need to focus on better customer relations in phone conversations and face-to-face interactions at your store or office.

Exceptions to poor service are memorable because they're so rare. Good service and after-sales support is being done with brilliant implementation in a lot of smart, successful companies.Customers will sometimes rave about really great service when they experience it.

Unfortunately, more typically, they tend to widely distribute their sour critiques of lousy service. People like to complain and get angry about stuff, especially personal injustices. They gush out with great zeal their dreadful customer relations nightmare. This gloomy tale is told even to strangers, their drive to unburden themselves of the insulting situation is so strong.

Somehow telling the bad story to others, in person, on the phone, in email, or in social networks, makes it seem a load that is communally shared, and oh brother, something is shared alright: negative buzz about your business.

Why is it that customer service is not really regarded, in practice, as a key to business success and survival?

Why are there so few books published on this topic of customer relations, while there are tons of books on sales, entrepreneurs, start-ups, management, networking, social media, brand building, digital media, and marketing?

It's the Conquest and Challenge Syndrome.

All that matters is conquest (sales, the plundering of your bank account). Once an individual is conquered, it is assumed that repeat victories will automatically occur, without any effort by the business owner, manager, or CEO. So you forget about the recent conquest, lured by the excitement of the next challenge.

In other words, once a person is conquered, becomes a conquest, he or she is no longer challenging. Of no interest anymore. Worthy only of a special discount coupon once in a while or a free in-store sample.

They move from conquest to challenge. The challenge becomes a conquest, and on it goes. Ever pursuing that new challenge, until it's converted into a conquest, a sale, an exchange of money from customer to store.

It's like the guy who is unfaithful to his current girlfriend because he's already looking for the next one, while assuming he can enjoy the benefits of the current love interest until he finds a new woman. Conquest, then move on to the next challenge.

What makes it worse is that customer acquisition, the conquest or conversion of a stranger into a paying customer, this whole process is typically delegated to advertising, marketing, and public relations.

"If we sit around and wait for our promotions to work, they will come" seems to be the slogan underlying this inertia. Let the print ads, TV commercials, website, and radio jingles bring us new customers.

People aren't stupid. They make mental notes on how a business treats them. One bad experience can negate a lifetime of great relations with a business. One colossal instance of disrespect. One garish example of getting ripped off. One lie. One time-consuming, frustrating, wild goose chase to get something done.

Customers love to share with everybody, even strangers sometimes, angry tales of bad customer services.

People have feelings, not just wallets. They don't want to be ignored, unappreciated, assumed. Business owners assume those who want the product and know about the store will eventually find their way there.

If you think having the right products at a good price, plus a lot of expensive advertising and occasional discounts and special events, are going to obtain and retain customers, you're wrong. It's not enough. It's a big mistake to lean on externals and the extraordinary.

Be friendly, helpful, customer-centric right there in the store or business location. Face to face contact is where the real marketing occurs. The moment the customer walks into your building, or visits your website, that's when sales begins and customer service kicks in. Before they even buy something, your treatment of the customer is felt, sensed, and seen.

From the minute any contact is made with any employee, customer relations has started to burn a "brand" into the consciousness of the consumer. This mental "branding" is far more important than any brand campaign cooked up to push a framework and motivation onto a customer.

The impression your staff makes on each customer is what builds the momentum of word of mouth and online buzz. Your advertising cannot combat the real world experiences of store traffic or customer assistance programs. Eventually, the truth will get out, and your slogans will be laughed at, if not despised.

As CEO, business owner, or manager, you need to provide the model of ideal sales and ideal customer service. You set the example, then enforce the standards your business must strive for to attract new customers, increase sales, and retain loyal advocates, who, as satisfied customers, are happy to find a business that really cares.

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