An survey has found Australia's three worst industries for customer satisfaction are advertising and marketing services, real estate agents and recruitment agencies. But the results could hold key learnings for New Zealand's SME owners too.
The research, based on more than 350,000 customer reviews on the consumer website WOMO.com asked users "Based on your experience with this business, how satisfied are you?"
WOMO managing director and co-founder Fiona Adler says there are key factors that deflate customer satisfaction.
"It's not delivering what you promised; it's letting people down," Adler says.
A common thread among the low-rating customer satisfaction industries are that they are seeking sales with an eye on one-off transactions, rather than developing an ongoing business, Adler says.
"They are more focused on getting the work and the bigger sale than on the word of mouth they're leaving behind," she says.
Internet ratings and recommendations systems means word of mouth is now scalable, and can affect these large single transaction businesses, so there is now incentive for all businesses to focus on keeping customers happy, Adler says.
The top rated industries in the survey were vets and animal treatments, cake services and osteopaths, a result that Adler says is not surprising.
"A lot of those businesses know that they're all about making customers happy and they really recognise that they're a service and that they make a difference to our lives."
Managing director of consultancy Peak Performance, Linley Watson, works with small business owners to develop a culture that puts the customer first.
"If you're customers are not happy - or more to the point, not delighted - you're not going to have a business for very long. It needs to be something you're constantly striving for," Watson says.
Satisfaction is no longer enough, she says.
"Satisfaction is almost a hygiene factor. Customers expect to be satisfied. If they are just satisfied they won't be advocates and provide referrals."
For example, a typical customer expectation from the airline industry is that a flight will take off and land on time and provide a clean and safe space for the customer, and if this happens the customer won't say anything to others about the experience, Watson says.
"Business is about word of mouth, it's about referral ... if businesses strive to build partnerships so the customers are advocates, that will help them grow the business. Their success is inextricably linked with customer success."
Watson provides her top tips for business owners to raise customer satisfaction.
Top tips for business owners to raise customer satisfaction
1. It's all about attitude
Hire people who have a positive, customer-focused attitude, then train and coach them to be great at their job. Empower them to make decisions that solve customer problems.
2. Understand that customers are your business
Without customers you don't have a business and you don't need staff. All your employees need to understand that it is essentially the customer who pays their wages.
3. Put the customer at the heart of everything you do
It's up to business owners and managers to communicate the importance of customer satisfaction. When making major decisions ask "how will this impact our customers?"; in every meeting consider the customer, talk about customers, reward your staff for great customer service. You should build relationships with your customers and ask for feedback.
4. Happy staff equals happy customers
Cultivate an internal customer ethos where people treat each other as they would their best customer. What happens on the inside of an organisation gets reflected to the outside.
5. Create more value for your customers
Customers are always considering whether the benefits of doing business with you outweigh the costs.
Price is only one of the costs; the others are time, effort and emotion. So make sure you are fast, easy and reliable and constantly look at ways to increase the benefits and reduce the non-financial costs of doing business with you.
6. Get the basics right
Do what you say you will do, when you say you will do it and get it right first time.
The cost of rework due to unnecessary errors has a big impact on the profitability of any business but can kill a small business.
Look at your systems and processes from the customer's perspective, fix the source of errors, listen to your customers, understand what they really want.
7. Strive to delight your customers
Satisfied customers are not enough. Research shows that a significant number of satisfied customers will still defect to the competition.
Aim to delight your customers and make your customers more successful. Find out what they are trying to achieve, what their challenges are and figure out how you can help them serve their customers more effectively.
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