Commercial Laundry: David Griggs, Superior Linen Service, Muskogee, Okla.
Receiving accurate feedback from your customers is a vital aspect of being a successful laundry. All laundries produce basically the same linens and many times purchase them from the same linen vendor. This makes it tough to separate your company from your competition.
Therefore, it is vital to constantly research what your customers are expecting from their laundry and how your services are matching up. Issues will always pop up within your customer base and how fast you react to these issues will decide whether they remain your customer.
Getting feedback without becoming a nuisance to your customer can be a challenge. I know I stopped using a very convenient service center for my car simply because they asked for too much feedback.
I don’t need an e-mail, text survey and phone call just asking how my oil change went. But I do appreciate a “We appreciate your business, is there anything we can do better” e-mail.
Our company deploys a couple of tools we feel helps us stay engaged with our customer base.
First, all customer complaints, concerns or issues must be tracked.
We log all our customer contacts into a database. This system automatically alerts all managers that there is an issue with a customer. If it is a quality issue, our production team will be alerted; if it’s a delivery issue, then our service team will be notified. Take each complaint seriously.
Another good method for solicitating customer feedback is to create a small questionnaire that you can leave at your customers so that they can fill it out at their convenience and send back to you. Once again keep it short so that they can complete it within a minute and then just e-mail or fax it back to you.
If you are just starting into requesting feedback, you may send them out to all your customers. Afterward, just try to communicate at least quarterly.
You don’t have to log every time you communicate with a customer. I know it is not uncommon for laundries to communicate daily with their customers. However, the feedback you are looking for isn’t a part of the day-to-day orders. It needs to be quick. How are we doing? What can we do better?
Equipment Manufacturing: Bob Fesmire, Ellis Corp., Itasca, Ill
There are many ways to measure customer service. We have found a few that have been successful for us.
First, third-party surveys, if done correctly, are a great way to get data from customers to understand from their perspective what the company is doing well and what can be improved upon. People are more likely to be honest if it is not someone at the business being the questioner.
Second, if there is any one metric that has been shown to be one of the most successful ways to measure success it is the “net promoter score.” Essentially it means asking current customers, “How likely are you to recommend this company to a friend or colleague?”
This could be on a scale of 1 to 5 or however you wish. We have found that the net promoter score measurement is a powerful statement of how your service is doing and always carries more weight than anything else.
There is a lot on the web or in various business publications that can speak of it more eloquently than I can.
Chemicals Supply: Lauren Hunker, Ecolab, Eagan, Minn.
Taking the time to examine the current state of your customer service is imperative, as customers’ goals and expectations will change and develop over time as our world and markets evolve.
Delivering a top customer-service experience requires initiating open lines of communication with your customers, being receptive to the feedback while realistic when identifying improvement opportunities, and communicating the value you provide back to the customer.
The first step in assessing the customer service you provide is to directly request feedback from your customers. There are many means of collecting feedback. It can be in the form of surveys, comment cards or a direct dialogue.
A critical piece of collecting feedback is to receive opinions of personnel who hold various roles in your customer’s business. For example, the feedback you receive from management will differ from those who work in the platform area. However, improving your customer-service experience to all levels of your customer’s business helps in more ways with a diverse impact, ultimately effecting their overall operation.
The second step to examining and improving your customer service is to seriously consider and evaluate the feedback you receive. By demonstrating to your customer that you take their feedback seriously and identify opportunities to help them reach their goals, you become viewed as a partner, which forms a working relationship that is truly invaluable.
However, recognize you will not be able to deliver on all your customer’s wants, and make sure the opportunities you pursue align with your own business goals. You will be more successful if you identify and focus on a few opportunities you are enthusiastic about rather than try to attack every opportunity identified in the feedback that was received.
Lastly, make sure you actively engage with your customers and communicate the value you provide back to your customer. When they are reminded as to how your business helps them achieve their goals, their overall view of your customer service will improve.
If you are passionate about what value you are delivering to your customer, your customer will recognize that and appreciate your services more.
Textiles: Timothy Voit, Thomaston Mills, Wyncote, Pa.
The world is filled with companies that send out customer service surveys, ignore the results and e-mail blast pre-programmed responses pretending to care about your wants and needs. Moreover, we also know during sessions of endless holding music that it is always a time of high call volume and that few companies actually care enough to answer the phone promptly to handle your needs.
If you want to learn about the state of your customer service, person-to-person contact and deep conversations with your customers, not insincere cyber-surveys, are essential.
Textile manufacturers, like laundries and linen rental services, are not high-margin businesses, and every day we face off against competition offering sharp price points but who are walled off to feedback. Particularly for those of us who make products responsibly in the United States, low-cost competitors are constantly knocking at the doors of our customers.
We find strong relationships and human contact to be the key to thriving in such a competitive environment, and customer service is the key to maintain these relationships.
We think the key to reviewing the customer service is to have a dedicated relationship manager for each key account.
If you do have such managers, I strongly recommend getting a summary on the state of your relationships from those managers and even travel or conference with them for deep conversations with your customers.
Be open to negative feedback and strongly consider how you can change your own organization to support your customers during their own difficult challenges.
A challenging situation and a creative solution to it can deepen relationships with your customers and support profitability in the long run.
Looking beyond the immediate bottom line sometimes is a must. A frustrated customer will much sooner open the door to the low-cost competition, which for all of us is always lurking around the corner.
Being available and in touch personally with customers is not only refreshing in these days of automatic attendants and endless holding music, to us it is essential to our success.
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