David FullerLike most people (at least 62 percent, according to a 2019 study by Hello Products), I don’t like going to the dentist. However, this was my week for getting a cavity checked and I headed to the dentist’s office.

You know the routine: you get questioned and prodded by the dental assistant as she takes X-rays and pokes around in your mouth.

Yet this dental assistant seemed different from most others. She seemed passionate about her job and was eager to explain why they were taking my blood pressure and why a bone in my mouth hurt when she took an X-ray.

It made my experience at the dentist so much better than usual.

You would think that when times are tough, customer service would take a front seat in the minds of business leaders. However, that doesn’t seem to be the case.

Take, for example, my daughter’s recent experience at the bank. She simply went in to ask why they weren’t answering the phone when she called. The receptionist blew up and told her that people were busy working from home and it wasn’t a priority. My daughter is now changing banks.

Or take the story I heard from someone who went to a restaurant last week for a great experience with friends and came away with a large bill and stories to tell their friends about how bad the food and service were.

Unfortunately, most customer service is mediocre at best.

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We all think our organizations bend over backwards to serve our customers. Yet if we truly looked at the service through the eyes of a customer, we might be appalled. How often do our team members forget to follow up on phone calls or messages, mix up orders or make a mistake because we they’ve failed to pay attention to customers’ requests?

Eighty-nine percent of your old customers who now buy from your competitors do so because your customer service failed them.

So why does it matter?

According to a report by Small Business Trends, 82 percent of respondents said they left a business because of poor customer service and 78 percent bailed on a purchase because they didn’t get the customer service they expected. These people are leaving your business because of rude staff, staff that lacks necessary knowledge and issues not getting resolved in a timely manner.

Because the lifetime value of a customer can be calculated, though rarely is – and it can cost you five to 10 times more money to get new customers than to retain an existing customer – it really matters that you find ways to keep customers happy.

It has been calculated that a two percent increase in customer retention is equal to a 10 percent reduction in total company expenses. Businesses that improve the retention of five percent of customers through better service notice an increased profitability of between 25 and 90 percent.

So at a time when many businesses are struggling, it makes sense to focus on keeping customers happy.

The encouraging fact about a terrible customer service experience is that 92 percent said they would return to a business after they received an apology, a discount on another purchase, and/or proof of improved customer service.

Unfortunately, many organizations let clients and customers slip away one at a time without any follow up.

Having great customer service starts with the leader. Your team is watching how you treat customers and how you treat them, and they will try to emulate your actions. If you give lip service to treating people well and then treat your team poorly, don’t expect your clients to receive anything different. If you have a passion for looking after customers, it rubs off on your team.

We need to hire people who are passionate about what they do. Just as the dental assistant I encountered this week was passionate about her career, it’s equally important that the dentist has a system in place to recognize that she would be a great addition to the organization.

Creating and building a culture of passionate employees ensures that we have great customer service and that our customers will keep coming back. That just might be the deciding factor between you and your competition.

Dave Fuller, MBA, is an award winning business coach and a partner in the firm Pivotleader Inc. Passionate about this topic? Email [email protected]

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