The customer – friend or foe?

Every business relies on customers or clients to be profitable, but there are so many elements to making a successful business, juggling quickly becomes crucial to survival.

During the juggling act, many business people throw the customer’s needs and want up in the air and forget to catch them, neglecting to service their needs properly and forgetting that the customer pays the bills. This can result in client objections – the customer becomes the foe and the relationship spoils.

On the flip side, many businesses can’t see past their customer and allow prospecting, administration, and other important tasks to fall by the wayside, being too busy trying to please their customers.

My view is that delighting customers does not build loyalty but reducing their effort does. This is backed by a customer service survey conducted by the Harvard Business Review last year. The survey aimed to find out how important customer service is to loyalty, which customer service activities increase loyalty and which don’t, and whether or not companies can increase loyalty without increasing customer service operating costs.

Harvard found that exceeding expectations during service interaction has a negligible impact on customer loyalty. This is, of course, not to suggest that under servicing does not, but tells us that by focusing too much on ‘delighting’ your customer, you run the risk of over-servicing at no benefit to you or the customer. The survey also found that companies could create loyal customers by actually reducing their customer effort. This is obviously a big coup for businesses seeking to retain customers while keeping operating costs low.

The trick is to help your customer solve their problems quickly and easily, instead of aiming to delight them in service interactions. Here are five easy ways to lower your effort and make it easy for customers:

  1. Don’t just resolve the current issue but head off the next one
  2. Address the emotional side of customer interactions
  3. Minimise channel switching by boosting self-serve channel stickiness – 57% of complaints came from customer trying to resolve issues online but couldn’t.
  4. Use feedback from unhappy customers to enhance issue resolution rate. Empower the front line to deliver a low effort customer experience

Unhappy customers are a common concern for many businesses. Client objections, if not handled properly can affect loyalty.

Many businesses often unintentionally create objections and conflict with their customers by simply not listening and understanding a customer’s real needs or priorities. The customer should never be the foe, but nor should they be a friend. It’s a business transaction and needs to have clear boundaries about expectation and delivery.

Of course, client objections can lead to customer dissatisfaction and reduce customer loyalty, but it doesn’t need to come to this and it shouldn’t.

Rethink labeling every customer question or concern as an objection. A customer posing a question, seeking clarification, or expressing confusion is not an objection. We should welcome these inquiries as a signal that the customer is engaged. They’re showing interest, and are seeking to find common ground as to whether to work with us or eliminate us from the equation. This is not ground for fear and loathing.

There are four common areas that can easily lead to client objections if not handled properly:

  1. Misunderstanding – correct it
  2. Doubt – resolve it
  3. Limitation – compromise or put it into perspective
  4. Question – answer it

If you do happen to come across a real objection, below is a seven-step process for handling objections:

  1. Deal with the objection straight away. Don’t ignore it.
  2. Be trustworthy and empathise with feelings that are expressed; Use an appropriate manner by remaining calm, showing respect, and using positive language (talk about what can be done rather than what can’t be done).
  3. Utilise your most effective communication skills, remembering to: actively listen, question, solve problems, avoid making personal judgments, be flexible, and work together.
  4. Ask questions to determine the real objection.
  5. Restate objections to clarify the issue and gain agreement from the customer that this is their real concern.
  6. Work towards seeing the situation from the customer’s point of view
  7. Select a course of action. This may include negotiating a resolution.

Don’t neglect to deal with client objections by bending over backward trying to delight and befriend your customer. You don’t need to over service and can have a long client relationship of mutual benefit by actively listening, questioning, and responding to your customer.

Sue Barrett is an experienced business speaker and adviser, facilitator, sales coach, training provider, entrepreneur, and founder of Barrett Consulting.

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