(This article originally appeared on Deb Calvert’s blog)
You’ve been working with the same clients for a good, long time now. You’re satisfied. They’re satisfied.
Smooth sailing… Right?
Or could there be a festering little grain of dissatisfaction? Is there a little something you do that is annoying or inconvenient to a client? Is there a problem you thought was resolved long ago but the client still feels disappointed about? Or maybe your client harbors a lingering feeling of vague discontent, a sense that something is missing in your buyer/ seller relationship…
If a buyer feels a little less than satisfied, how is a seller supposed to know? We’ll get back to that in just moment. First, let’s consider why a seller would want to know. As obvious as that may seem, plenty of sellers choose NOT to deal with buyer unease or discontent. They even go so far as to tell me that it would be “like picking at a scab” or “stirring the pot” to address unresolved or old or unsurfaced issues.
Here’s the problem. As long as the client is carrying those under-the-surface feelings, the relationship is at risk. As soon as another seller offers a more secure and satisfying relationship, one free from the unresolved issue that grew every time it was left unresolved, then the buyer will consider becoming the new seller’s client.
Here’s an alarming bit of research from Customer Loyalty Expert Cindy Solomon – 80% of customers who leave are actually satisfied. That overall satisfaction isn’t sufficient. It falls short of being loyalty, deep-level loyalty that maintains relationships even through the rough spots.
Preserving client satisfaction and building loyalty starts with keeping little issues from becoming big ones. When a seller ignores the “little” things, they become big things. That’s why it’s important to perform routine service checks with your buyers.
A service check should be a question like one of these, asked even when there are no known problems:
- What could I be doing differently to make it easier for you to do business with me?
- When it comes to frequency and method of communication, how am I doing?
- Thinking about all aspects of our service and order fulfillment for you, how are we doing?
When there are known problems, it’s imperative for a seller to deal with the problem fully. Trying to sweep them under the carpet or move past them before the feelings have been fully aired and dealt with will only leave a seed of doubt in the buyer’s mind. That seed of doubt can be watered by your competitor and will sprout into full-grown dissatisfaction if it is not taken care of completely.
To deal with a problem, no matter how small, you’ll want to give your client an opportunity to vent. You’ll want to be sure all the feelings associated with the problem have been aired. Ask questions like this to get the issue out in the open:
- Tell me what we can do to make this right for you.
- Describe, please, in detail for me exactly what service errors we made.
- What else can you tell me about this situation?
Checking in on your clients’ satisfaction level and dealing with their dissatisfaction may not be the most pleasant part of your job. But there is one thing even less pleasant – losing customers you’ve neglected.