Friday, August 21, 2009

The Five Most Important Things Customers Want

A recent customer service survey conducted by The Forum Corporation identifies five essential things customers want from product manufacturers and service providers. These five elements are universal to all businesses and industries and refer both to your products and your services.

The first thing customers want is RELIABILITY. They want to dependably and accurately receive what has been promised. They expect your products to perform exactly as, or better than, stated in your advertisements or marketing materials. They want your products to withstand normal wear and tear. They expect your employees to provide exceptional customer service every time. They want to know that your staff will do the right things right the first time. They want to rely on and trust you will deliver on your promises each and every time they do business with you.

Second, your customers want RESPONSIVENESS. They expect your employees to be fast, timely and efficient. They especially want your workers to immediately notice them, and willingly help them when noticed. If there is a problem, customers expect it to be fixed promptly with no hassle. They want your employees to rectify problems and resolve concerns as quickly as possible with minimal impact on or effort from the customer. Most important, they expect a sense of urgency when it comes to delivering your services or rectifying a problem.

Next, customers seek ASSURANCE that dealing with your company will be a pleasant experience. Customers feel assured when your employees are well-informed, respond in a courteous manner, and convey respect in their demeanor. They also are assured when your employees are helpful and go out of their way to serve the customers. Customers can tell whether or not your employees are interested in serving them. Assurance, or confidence, in the consistency of your products and services is essential to creating customer loyalty.

Customers also want EMPATHY from your employees. This is exhibited in the degree of caring and individual attention provided to the customers by your employees. When customers have concerns they expect a prompt response and resolution to their problems. But they also wish to feel your employees care about and acknowledge their concerns. Resolution without empathy usually does not fully satisfy customers. People need to sense remorse from your staff for the inconvenience or difficulty the problem may have caused. Customers expect your employees to see things from the customer’s perspective and to be able to empathize with the customer experience. Patients want doctors who are not just technically proficient, but who also have a good bedside manner. Empathy can often compensate for errors in quality and service.

Finally, customers expect you to provide the TANGIBLES you promise. Tangibles are the things that create or represent your image and appearance to the customers. Tangibles are the physical properties of your products, facilities and employees. They are the way your enterprise and people look, sound and feel. Tangibles are the obvious characteristics of your products and services. Customers expect the tangible delivery of your products and services to match the image of your marketing and advertising.

These five elements are listed here in priority order from the customers’ perspective. Reliability is what customers want most. What they want least are tangibles. Yet the survey found that companies spend most of their energy focused on providing tangibles. They make their products physically appealing. They outfit their employees in pleasing attire. They ensure their facilities are ergonomically pleasing. But often these appearances are a fa├žade shrouding shoddy craftsmanship or poor customer service. Nothing frustrates customers more than to purchase products that look good, but function poorly.

Therefore, you can greatly enhance the loyalty of your customers by effectively focusing on the five things that matter most to the customers in the order the customers care about them most.

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