Building on the Momentum of Satisfied Customers

If your company has a successful relationship with most of its clientele, you may think that it's not necessary to put too much effort into customer relations. But you can't just sit by and watch your policies work. To remain "best in class," managers and staff members must continually be responsive to customers and their changing needs. To maintain or improve satisfaction, consider following these guidelines:   Get involved. Managers should personally serve customers on a regular basis. This cements relationships and signals to your staff that service is honorable and the customer is the focus of corporate energy.   Give fast feedback. Set up a highly visible means for your customers to communicate their concerns. This indicates that you care. Quickly respond to customers and then immediately pass on the feedback to your staff so they can make the connection between their behavior and customer attitudes.   Empower employees. All staff members should be allowed to make service decisions. Talking about customer satisfaction means little if employees aren't empowered to deliver it.   Cultivate service heroes. Reward staff members who make the effort. Feature stories or anecdotes about outstanding customer service in your company newsletter, in emails, on your Intranet and at staff meetings. Public praise creates heroes and encourages excellence.   Get personal. Use one-on-one marketing tactics, even if mass marketing is your major strategy. These efforts help customers to know your company and will produce a greater impact from your mass marketing campaigns.   Learn from failure. Spectacular efforts in everything involve risk, and that sometimes produces failure. If your business doesn't fail now and then, it probably isn't growing. Look at failure as an opportunity to discover new strategies.   Challenge history. Praise team members who challenge traditions. Don't discourage them. When policies are questioned, businesses make changes and corporate values evolve, strengthen and survive.

"The biggest risk in staying at the top is what I think of as the 'successful company disease' -- starting to think that the customer's wrong or the competitors aren't as good. That's a dangerous thing. So we try to have a culture that's continually challenging."

- George Chamillard, CEO of Teradyne Inc.