Where did the customer service go?

Thursday, July 1, 2004

What is the most important issue facing the security industry today? Some might answer that question by saying it's false alarms. Others might respond with a lack of qualified installers. Some feel it’s the never ending changes in fire codes, alarm company mergers or a host of others. Simply put, the single most devastating issue is customer attrition.

If a company lost 10 percent of its inventory to theft, swift action would be taken to turn the tide. Many companies are losing 10 percent of their clients to competitors and don’t even notice. How much does your company invest in nurturing long lasting relationships with your customers? When was the last time someone in your organization called a client to let them know how grateful you are for their patronage?

I’m sorry to have to tell you, sending a bill each month with a little message on the bottom thanking subscribers for their business does not constitute customer relations, nor does it give you any competitive edge when others are soliciting your client base with cheaper services or fancy gimmicks. The same is true when your recorded “on hold” message tells them how important their call is to you. How do you feel when you hear that message? You probably think ‘if my call was so important, why are they keeping me on hold so long?’ How much more will you be able to grow your company by keeping more of what you already have, and selling to new subscribers?

Perceived value in the service you provide helps create longevity. Voice mail and email have nearly made personal relationships extinct. I promise you, with some very simple gestures, you could assure that your clients will not jump ship the first time some competitor comes along soliciting without at least calling you first to try and work out some kind of reasonable solution. Building a rapport with clients is easy and cost effective. If your staff really cares about your clients, building personal relationships costs you little or nothing, and makes it next to impossible to lose your customers to competitors, while creating huge payoffs when it comes to referrals.

Take a look around. The art of true customer service is just about gone in nearly every industry. Put yourself in your client’s shoes and imagine how thrilled you would be if just one person from one of your service vendors would take a little time to nurture you and be seen as fair and reasonable in their answers to you. This is an easy way to prove they really value the trust you have placed in them.

Any security dealer would do well to put forth a little effort to determine the most beneficial and cost effective way to get training and initiate a program designed to literally delight your customers. Now is a great time to start understanding and reducing attrition. Long-term customer relationships and the referrals you will get from subscribers who have finally found a company who truly cares about them will grow your company beyond your wildest imagination.

Here are some helpful hints to try yourself - take an honest look at your service from the perspective of your customer, when you can’t say yes, learn how to say no correctly and provide your staff with training to satisfy your most difficult customers.

It’s shameful most security companies just don’t get it. How much more will your company grow, by keeping what you have and developing those relationships to the best of your ability? A little effort goes a long way, and it’s never crowded along the extra mile.

Robert Harris is managing director for The Attrition Busters seminars, consulting and workshops. He can be reached via email at bobh@consultant.com.