As client power increases, service and reputation mean more

The Ohio State Fair always loomed big when I was growing up. In a farm family, it’s practically mandatory. So, while I was already a big fan of the Ohio State Fair, this month I became an even bigger one.

It was so easy to work with the marketing and PR director on the Uniquely Columbus feature that it reminded me once again of the importance of good customer service. A few emails and one quick phone call left me impressed, pleased and feeling better about the entire organization.

A little goes a long way

I recently came across a sales force infographic about connecting with customers and becoming a customer company.

One fact stood out: If businesses can decrease their customer attrition by 5 percent that can result in a 95 percent increase in profits, according to Fred Reichheld’s book “The Loyalty Effect.”

In today’s culture, customers are smarter, more vocal and more able to influence others, and customer service needs to be knowledgeable about every touch point of your company.

It’s also interesting that customers are making up their minds before they even interact with businesses. Fifty-seven percent of purchase decisions are made before customers talk to a sales rep, according to a Corporate Executive Board study.

I, for one, certainly follow that model. When I plan to make a large purchase, I do my research ahead of time and then head into the store with an agenda. That’s not to say a salesperson couldn’t change my mind, but it would be a hard sell.

So, not only do businesses need to always keep the customer in mind, but they also have to reach out and market themselves to potential customers they didn’t know they had yet — people who are already making up their minds based on an Internet search, reviews, word of mouth or social media.

Reputation plays into perception

Another thing to remember about customer service is that it’s not just staff members who work with customers. Think about how many times you’re outside of work talking to people and they ask, “What do you do? Where do you work?”

What do you want the first words out of your employees’ mouths to be? If someone gives a qualifying — the money is good and I have a great commute — answer, what does that say about your company?

If your people are excited to work for you, then that excitement leads to a better general perception of your company. If someone tells me they love their job, giving a believable endorsement of the company, then I’ll remember that name. That’s a business I want to buy from or work with.

Also, look at the website Glassdoor, where employees and job seekers can post comments anonymously about businesses. The website is growing quickly for a reason. (It secured $50 million at the end of last year to expand globally.) A bad review from an employee there hurts your company just like a poor customer experience.

Customer experience is everything, and in today’s business environment customer service is so much more than just answering the phone and quickly responding to an inquiry.