Improving the customer experience is a universal goal in business, right along with revenue growth and return on investment. But although we all know that customer care is the road to customer satisfaction, it can be difficult to navigate the journey. Knowing what to avoid can help you reach your destination more quickly and easily. Following are a few roadblocks to steer clear of in your pursuit of exceptional customer care.

Avoid indirect routing: As you chart your path to customer satisfaction, the most direct route is the most effective. Customer care cannot be a departmental initiative – it must be a company-wide vision that starts at the top. Don’t allow your organization’s customer care mission to be seen as the responsibility of any single group. Rather, insist on a commitment to quality linking everyone to the customer, from C-level executives to front-line staff.

No bad drivers: The customer care agents who respond to customers are the face of your organization: don’t let the wrong hires damage your reputation. Make sure your hiring criteria emphasize customer empathy and a commitment to serve. Train employees to see every situation from the customer’s point of view, and to listen closely to assess the nature of the problem and relationship so they can give extra attention to your best customers. Reward employees who go the extra mile in customer care, for example, calling to tell the customer when a service technician is on the way. Impose consequences for failure to follow up.

No back-seat driving: No customer ever wants to be put on hold while an agent tracks down a manager for permission to do the right thing. Build a culture of empowerment in your company in which every customer care agent can resolve a customer problem without seeking an OK from on high. Give your customer care staff the authority to make customers happy.

Kick-the-can is not allowed: Do not allow a customer to be transferred from department to department in search of a resolution to his problem. Customer care demands one-stop shopping. Align goals across all departments and divisions so everyone knows that the goal is to delight the customer, not to get rid of him.

Are we there yet? (or: How do you know where you’re going if you don’t know where you’ve been?) Failure to measure virtually guarantees failure to improve. Exceptional customer care can only be achieved through scrupulous measurement and management. Establish a baseline of satisfaction. For example, a service organization might determine that no customer should have to call with a problem more than twice a year, and offer some kind of compensation if that baseline is exceeded. Establish triggers that signal potential dissatisfaction and build them into customer records. Survey customers regularly to determine their level of satisfaction, and follow up to measure improvement after a customer care transaction. As problems are resolved, be sure that you measure total customer care response time, including time spent waiting for parts or service delivery.

Don’t forget regular maintenance: As we tend to customer care problems, it’s easy to lose sight of those who don’t appear on the daily radar. Recognize and reward good customers, even if they don’t experience problems. Thank them for their business through special offers and rewards.

Great customer care doesn’t have to be expensive – it’s a matter of avoiding the detours along the way and convincing your customers that you’re the only company they want to buy from. Going the extra mile and respecting your customer’s time and concerns will ensure a positive experience for the customer and long-term benefit for your company.

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