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Poor Customer Service - Are Your Customers Driving Away Other Customers

Every customer you have is a word-of-mouth advertiser for you. Unfortunately 90% of this free advertising is negative. Your goal is to get positive-word-of-mouth advertisers.

Think about it, how do you decide where to shop? Your chief consideration may be location or price, but service is a silent draw that cannot be overlooked.

Years ago we went to a get our oil changed at the Citgo station at Rochester and Hamlin in Rochester Hills. The owner was in tough competition with the established shop across Rochester Road. We were first in line and the shop really did achieve their time goal as we were pulling in the bay in just over 5 minutes. To our surprise the owner came to the window and offered us free pop because of the "long wait" on a hot day. He also offered lollipops to our children after getting our permission. It is now ten years later and every oil change on both cars have been done at his shop. What was his cost? Two cans of pop and two lollipops. To be honest I cannot tell you how his price compares to the shop across the street, but I don't care. Anyone that takes care of the customer like he did on our first visit has integrity and places customer service as a top goal. Not only has he received our total business, we also told this story a hundred of times to friends and at conferences.

Word-of-mouth is a very powerful advertising tool. With competition as intense as it is today people are looking for ways to determine at which of the many resources available to spend their money.

The emphasis on word-of-mouth advertising is getting a lot of attention at colleges in and near Allentown, Pennsylvania. College freshmen can now go to several Internet sites to determine into which professors class they should strive. The sites list comments about the professors posted by former students. Although the colleges say the sites do not agree with the evaluations they are receiving at the end of the classes, the sites have increasing in the number of web hits they receive. According to Christina Gostomski of the Allentown Morning Call (May 16), students like the sites because they want to make sure they aren't wasting tuition dollars.

Word-of-mouth advertising is also recognized by Google as having max impact, and they have the results to prove it. According to Forbes.com (May 22) the Internet advertising company built their new service, Adwords, on word-of-mouth advertising. "The response was so enthusiastic that by February 2002 Adwords had been extended to all Google listings. It grew to 100,000 bidders in ten months, and thousands more advertisers are still signing up." according to Forbes.

Increasing positive-word-of-mouth requires that one is in tune with the customer. There are two facts that work against this free form of advertising:

1. Negative word-of-mouth advertising is ten times more common. Unfortunately people are more likely to talk bad than they are to talk well of an organization.

2. Unsatisfied customers are not likely to make their feelings known. While it is true that some are overly vocal, the majority tend to keep quiet.

To identify unsatisfied customer you must be alert to their tone of voice, how they walk out of your place of business, whether or not they look you in the eye, and (perhaps most importantly) does your place of business say, "Welcome, we're glad you're here!"

As for the vocally unhappy, conflict resolution skills are vitally important. A business person must be on there "A" game every time a conflict arises, and they must be equipped to handle the problem.

The type of word-of-mouth advertising that your organization receives is totally up to you. Now that you know you will receive word-of-mouth advertising, as evidenced by the college professors and Google, you must make a choice as to how prepared you will be to influence the ads themselves.

Rick Weaver is President of Max Impact, a national leadership and organization development company based in Rochester Hills, Michigan. Rick is an accomplished business executive with experience in retail, market analysis, supply chain and project management, team building, and process improvement. He has worked with hundreds of companies to improve sales, processes, and bottom-line results. MaxImpact offers leadership and organizational development services along with employee assessments and background checks. Contact Rick at 248-802-6138 or via email, rick@getmaximpact.com. MaxImpact is on the web at http://www.getmaximpact.com.

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