Keep Customer Services Up: Applying the Holiday Spirit- and Hard Work- Pays Off In Sales

Most families have their favorite holiday traditions, with special rituals, decorations, clothes, songs, and foods that make the holidays unique, memorable, and fun.

When I was a kid, I looked forward to Christmas, I'll admit it, for the gifts I would get! Though I was somewhat jealous of my friends who got gifts for the eight days of Chanukah, I loved and looked forward to every aspect of the holidays--the whole experience, even the cold weather. It felt like a magical time. When I had children of my own, I began to realize how hard my parents worked to make the holidays feel special for me.

When my wife and I were the ones who brought the Christmas tree home, hung the stockings, hauled the decorations up out of the basement, and stuffed the turkey and mashed the potatoes; when we were the ones who bought the presents, and wrapped them late at night to surprise and delight the kids; when we were the hosts who had the in-laws over and cleaned up the kitchen so others could watch the ball games--in short, when I became a parent--I had a huge revelation: the holidays are hard work!

Those holiday traditions didn't happen by accident. They were deliberately planned and carried out. Today all that hard work is gladly (usually) done with love and a sense of purpose, rather than with a sense of compliance.

Maybe we should reframe our thinking to view customer service standards the same way we view holiday traditions: not as a matter of compliance, but as a demonstration of passion for the traditions of our brands; not as rules that weigh us down, but as sure pathways to surprising and delighting customers.

Franchisees, after all, get into franchising to operate a system that's been proven to work. Let me give you an example of a that has, as part of its success formula, three important service standards. As you study the graph, think about your own franchise service standards, such as greet and smile, use customer's name, make a recommendation, thank and invite back, etc. As you see on the right side, there is direct linkage between the number of service standards that are performed at this retailer and the average dollar spent per transaction.

We see that customers who do not receive any of the key service standards spend $74.47, while customers who receive all three service standards spend $107.93. So there is an immediate, and measurable, reward for executing service standards. In this case, it's more than a 40 percent bump in sales. That's just the short-term payoff.

It gets better. Look how customer satisfaction rises in correlation to the number of service standards that are executed. High levels of customer satisfaction lead to high levels of repurchase and referral. Clearly, loyal customers who spend more and return more are more profitable. That's the long-term payoff--the value of a customer is fully realized over a lifetime.

Granted, in these times of high unemployment, not every customer who experiences great service will spend more or return as often. But that just strengthens my point: Tell all of your unit managers that your top priority is retaining the customers you have today, because every customer that can come back becomes all that much more important.

Your unit managers, shift supervisors, and front-line team members have to hear that from top management. You have to say, out loud, something like, "I want our customer satisfaction and loyalty scores to be in the high 70s or the low 80s." (Meaning that 75 to 85 percent of your customers are highly satisfied, not just satisfied. Highly satisfied customers are twice as likely to come back as merely satisfied customers.)

Translated into action, that means raising your customer service scores and continually improving the quality of your offer. Or more precisely, it means getting your unit managers totally bought into that way of thinking. They need information--evidence--that high levels of customer satisfaction are more than nice to have. They need to know that high satisfaction correlates strongly with transaction amount in the all retail industries, including service and personal services.

As a franchisee, you must have access to customer satisfaction feedback reports and service improvement provided by the franchisor. Use these tools to guide your managers and keep them focused on retaining the customers you are serving this very minute. Do not plan on the "recovery" to bail you out and reverse your sales slump. We are in a marathon, not a sprint. And we are nowhere near the finish line. So take control where you have control.

Let's look at what's right in front of us and take one deliberate step forward at a time. Do you have any customers left? Great. Keep your customer service standards alive--like your holiday traditions--through hard work done with love and a sense of purpose.

Jack Mackey is vice president of Service Management Group. For information about accurately measuring customer satisfaction, email him requesting "Five Things We Learned from Talking to 100 Million People." or 816-448-4556.

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