Talking about customer service with different people will typically provide different views and experiences. That said, customer service is generally considered one of the most significant differentiation factors in a competitive environment. What do we really want to achieve with customer service?
The most successful individuals and organizations have defined the desired result as “Customer Loyalty“! Developing loyal customers goes far beyond “satisfied customers” and can make a critical difference in the sustainability of success. The art is in creating unique, positive points of connection with every customer any time they are in contact with an organization. Such a contact can be between people but also when receiving services and products. Establishing customer loyalty is a powerful and lucrative competitive advantage of strategic value because loyal customers by definition always return, they brag about their suppliers creating invaluable word of mouth advertising and are often willing to pay a premium for the perceived added value. If there is an occasional problem with the product or service the loyal customer will be more forgiving and cooperative in correcting the mistake.
An important aspect in this context is the definition of “customer“. Again, successful organizations do not distinguish in principal between external and internal customers as they consider them of equal importance. As a matter of fact, if all the internal customer relationships along any given value chain of an organization are creating “Raving Fans” it will create an environment that generates loyal “external” customers.
Who provides the positive points of connection which create loyal customers? Any individual the gets in contact with a customer directly and indirectly, from the cleaning personnel in a plant to the CEO setting the visionary agenda. Customer loyalty should be on every one’s mind all the time and must not be reduced to a duty for sales and customer service professionals. In essence, internal AND external customer loyalty must be initiated by the leadership of an organization and requires three organizational (and individual) values to become ingrained:
- Emotional Connectivity – to enable everyone to create positive points of connection
- Uncompromising Integrity – maybe the most challenging concept but also the most important
- Unleashed Creativity – a value that requires risk taking on all levels of the hierarchy as it demands the freedom to be creative in finding solutions to serve any customer (internal or external) to the best ability.
If costumer loyalty becomes a strategic direction in an organization, success is consequential.