Better Treatment of Customers Means a Better Bottom Line!
A very recent example of this was evident on Monday Nov 3rd with Ryanair’s 6 month results to the end of September being reported. All major financial metrics were up: passenger numbers, after tax profits, revenues, load factor and average fares. Naturally other factors are impacting positively on Ryanair’s recent performances (lower oil prices, pick-up in consumer sentiment, more forward bookings, etc) but as was well documented earlier in the year Ryanair has changed their customer interaction approach from a “take it or leave it” philosophy to more of a “we would be happy for you to take it” model. Previously Ryanair had built their success on a “stack em high and pack them in” business model citing the industry low prices as reason enough to take their service over competitors offerings. Very little attention was paid to customer service and the result being regular complaints regarding delays, uncompromising policies, boarding scrambles for unreserved seats, stranded passengers when flights were disrupted, high fees for small issues like replacement tickets or flight transfers and the list could go on.
Earlier this year the penny appeared to drop at Ryanair that things didn’t have to be this way and that for very little cost they could make their customers much happier through simple customer service practices. Customer service consultants were brought in and a range of new policies were implemented. Seating allocations were brought in (albeit with an additional price), baggage policies were reviewed, new procedures were put in place to assist passengers who experienced excessive delays, staff training was upgraded to reflect a more customer friendly approach and the company’s communication message to customers changed to more of a consumer orientated tone, whilst still pushing the low cost message. The result has been a significant increase in profitability and a 6 month run up on the share price. The new customer service approach has undoubtedly been a factor in rise in passenger numbers and more people willing to take the Ryanair experience. This recent success has shown what a positive customer policy can do and is a lesson in what treating customers well can achieve!
12 Customer Service Lessons For Small Businesses To Use
Several lessons can be learned from the experiences of Ryanair that small businesses can take back to their businesses.
1. Never Take your Customers for Granted! No matter how low your prices are you always run the risk of losing business if your customers feel unappreciated or unwanted.
2. A Little can go a Long Way! Customer service doesn’t have to be an expensive endeavour and a little bit of care and problem resolution when required can be very effective in resolving issues when they arise.
3. Always Look for Ways to Add Value to your Customers. Even if that means offering additional paid services that you can make extra revenues from this will give your customers more choice and open the door to some upselling opportunities.
4. Just Because a Strategy Worked in the Past Doesn’t Mean it will Continue to Work in the Future! Using the Ryanair example they naturally came to a cross roads where a new customer service strategy was required for a new business environment. Companies have to be open to change and adapt how they deal with customers accordingly.
5. Always have a Procedure in Place to Deal with Issues/Complaints. Off the cuff is never the best way to handle problems that arise as it can be difficult to take the emotion of the situation in those circumstances. Document every customer complaint so that a best practice manual/document can be developed based on a range of experiences.
6. Really Listen to your Customers! Most businesses hear their customers but do they really listen? Take the time to pay close attention to what customers take the time to tell you. If you do so you will be better prepared to truly give future customers an exceptional service.
7. Make Customers Feel Important and Appreciated! Everybody likes to feel important as a customer so make sure that there is no class system when it comes to customers. Every enquiry must be dealt with as if it is the most important thing on the agenda at that moment. What may be a small issue for you but a big one for your client!
8. Try to Keep a Yes Attitude in Play. Learning how to say yes instead of no to customers can be a valuable lesson (even if it means figuring out how to make the yes happen after the fact). Be honest and clear with customers as to how you can address their issues and always follow through on what you say you are going to do something.
9. Apology Isn’t a Sign of Weakness! Everyone makes mistakes from time to time and so does every company. The important thing is to acknowledge these mistakes and own them when appropriate. In many cases the customer wants to get the issues off their chest and get an acknowledgement that a mistake has been made. They are always more interested in how the issue will be resolved than going over the past!
10. Get Regular Feedback from Customers. Keep on top of how you are meeting customer’s expectations of your business by either arranging regular face to face contact or alternatively an annual survey to determine quantifiable results. Make sure you act on these findings and use feedback as a means to constantly improve you offerings. Don’t use them to simply give yourself a pat on the back!
11. Try to Exceed Expectations in Everything You Do! That won’t always be the case but aim as high as possible. Even if they are a difficult customer and you may never exceed their expectations the fact that you tried and did more than requested will minimise the future conflicts. Also customer who are overjoyed are the ones that will actively refer your business not the ones who are merely satisfied.
12. Treat your Employees well and that will Feed through to Customers. In most, but not all cases, employees are on the front line when it comes to client interactions. As a result it stands to reason that happy employees will more likely mean happy customers! Keep your employees fulfilled and on side and customers are more likely to benefit by extension.
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