Creating a Climate of Customer Satisfaction
It has long been accepted that developing strong customer relationships is key to business success as it is much more effective to retain existing customers, by building strong customer loyalty, than develop new ones. One of the main reasons customers keep coming back is because they have confidence that they will receive good customer service.
Today this has much greater significance because unhappy customers have the ability, via social media, to share damaging negative comments with a large audience. Any such negativity can quickly switch existing and potential customers away from your business.
So high levels of consistent customer satisfaction are vitally important. Achieving this is dependent on a customer focused culture in the organisation. That means everyone, not just those in a customer facing role, understands the importance of providing good levels of customer service. It also requires continuing improvement. What was acceptable yesterday may not be good enough tomorrow.
Within construction, the situation is complicated by the fact that we do not have a single customer, but a complex decision making unit (DMU). On a single project the main players will include Client, Architect, Main Contractor and Sub-contractors. Within these organisations we will also encounter a number of influential roles. All of this means that understanding the DMU is critical.
Relationships with the members of the DMU are a key aspect of customer satisfaction. As a customer I want the right level of relationship with my suppliers. That means understanding what is “right” for your different customer categories. For example, Distributors, Contractors, Clients and Architects will all have a different expectation from the relationship with your company. It is important to understand what they want from this relationship and deliver it. Not too much or too little and one size definitely does not fit all. For example, a number of software houses offer automated systems for customer engagement. This gives the ability to set up automated workflows; sending emails with useful links to blogs with the aim of increasing engagement leading to orders. Excellent if used correctly, but start sending irrelevant messages, or emailing too frequently and you will only annoy your targets - reducing their level of satisfaction with your organisation.
It is also important to prioritise the factors which achieve customer satisfaction. This will vary between job roles, even in the same customer organisation. For example, a site manager will view satisfactory service in terms of accurate delivery information while his technical colleague will judge it in terms of easy access to technical advice and the estimator in terms of readily available price information.
So delivering customer satisfaction is not about one element, it requires a different approach dependent on the role, and possibly the sector of your audience. Ensuring this is achieved should be the responsibility of Marketing. This is because it is a key contributor to Brand Equity, also effective communications a significant aspect of achieving customer satisfaction.
The next challenge is sharing this philosophy within your organisation. For people to deliver the right level of customer service, they have to share the organisation’s vision and values. Very often this can be best achieved by re-defining them as objectives and strategies which the organisation can understand and focus on delivering. For some aspects it will be necessary to define process which people can follow. How customers are informed about deliveries is a good example of this. All of which leads to everyone in the organisation working together to deliver consistent, and appropriate, levels of service and hence customer satisfaction.
So start by understanding what the different members of the DMU expect from your organisation in terms of customer service. Also understand what is the right frequency of engagement. Then define clear processes that your teams can follow as well as ensuring they understand the organisation’s vision and values.
Creating a climate which will delivering good levels of customer satisfaction is not easy, but it does offer the opportunity to differentiate your business from your competitors.
Chris is founder of Competitive Advantage Consultancy which specialises in market research and training for the construction industry. He is a specialist in specification strategy, a member of theBIM4M2 working groups and serves on theorganising committee for CIMCIG, the Chartered Institute of Marketing’s Construction Industry Group.