Your reputation is based on your customer's experience. Fixing or preventing problems is half of the service equation; communicating with customers is the other half. Customer service is as important, if not more important than the immediate resolution of the problem.
Let me give you an example: I have been doing business for 10 years with a local support company I'm going to call Manyana. I helped push them into managed services. They in turn have brought me some cool technology.
About a year ago, the president of Manyana created a policy of not talking to clients directly. Emails yes; talking to the techs— if you really pushed, but a conversation with any kind of manager was out. (I think he liked the managed services model and decided to extend it into the communications arena). The lack of meaningful dialog led to frustration at our company and Manyana soon became the object of office jokes. Their reputation was ruined. Even if they resolved the problem and provided reasonable service, they were toast.
I now have a proposal on my desk from a Manyana competitor. The competitor will cost more money but will get my business. The difference between the two companies is not the technical service but the customer service. Communication skills count.
Price will always be important in a customer's purchase decision, but "outstanding service" is the number one reason customers do business with a company.
The experience you provide your customers is your brand. You may say "hey, I've lost two customers in the last three years. Customers feel my service is just fine." It's true, technical services customers tend not to leave—but does that mean you have a happy customer or a good reputation? Does that mean your customer would refer you to other companies? It doesn't.
Customers that aren't happy:
- Stay with you until a better alternative shows up
- Become price sensitive
- Openly complain about your service to professional associates
- Look for ways to limit the services you provide
Note: The percentage of people that will tell others about a bad customer experience has gone from 67% in 2006 to 84% in 2008 — Harris Interactive
Even if you've had a client for 10 years and have a personal relationship with management you are not safe. Personal relationships are important but managers have a professional responsibility to a business and, at the end of the day, will judge your company on the business service you provide.
Customers that are exceptionally happy become loyal and will:
- Never leave you for a competitor.
- Pay higher prices for your services.
- Refer your services to other companies.
- Look for reason to do business with you.
These are the customers you want. Customer satisfaction isn't difficult if you provide great customer service and make the customer experience something to brag about.