wisdom says an organization must have
satisfied customers if it is to survive.
But today, organizations are realizing
that satisfying customers may not be enough.
Recent studies indicate that satisfied
customers are not necessarily LOYAL customers
and even though customers say they are
satisfied, they may still defect to a
use a 1-5 rating system to measure customer
satisfaction with 5 indicating the highest
level of satisfaction. In most cases,
organizations are content with a score
of 3 ("satisfied").
to a 1994 study reported in the Harvard
Business Review, a 3 rating indicates
that the customer is "satisfied,"
but not necessarily "loyal."
The article reported that a score from
3.5 to 4.5 indicates that customers are
indifferent. Only a score of 4.6 or above
indicates a truly loyal customer.
does an organization achieve customer
loyalty? Is it simply a matter of answering
a customer call on the first ring? Offering
high speed internet access in every meeting
room? Seating only 8 instead of 10 at
function tables? Not exactly.
customer loyalty is an ongoing process,
not a single action. An organization must
understand what customers want and provide
it, because, in the end, the only perspective
that matters is the customer's.
what do customers want?
The Institute has studied the issue and
found that customer expectations generally
fall into the five dimensions outlined
in the SERVQUAL model (according to Parasuraman,
A., Zeithaml, V.A., and Berry, L.L. (1988).
SERVQUAL: A Multiple Item Scale for Measuring
Consumer Perceptions of Service Quality.
Journal of Retailing, 64 (Spring):
12-37): Tangibles; Reliability; Responsiveness;
Assurance, and Empathy.
are the physical aspects of a service
experience such as the appearance of the
facility and staff, as well as items like
communication materials. In short, this
is the image that an organization projects.
In the hospitality industry, for example,
the facility and the staff must be neat,
clean and organized in order for the customer
experience to be satisfactory. To engender
loyalty, however, that physical image
must exceed the customer's expectation.
Some organizations take steps to create
not just a certain physical appearance,
but tangible ambiance-- selecting a soothing
color scheme, installing plush carpets
and comfortable furniture. Westin's concept
of a "Heavenly Bed" is a prime
example of an organization that is working
to inspire customer loyalty using the
tangible aspects of service quality.
means performing the promised service
dependably and accurately, keeping promises,
and doing it right the first time. In
the hospitality industry, this can be
as simple as honoring the fees quoted
for a service and ensuring that the service
provided is the service that the customer
expects. Are you taking steps to ensure
that there are no interruptions in service
delivery? Is there a well-staffed reception
desk, an informative website, an efficient
toll-free number or strategically located
information kiosks? When guests need directions
or have a question, do they know where
to go for an answer? If a first-time guest
walked into your facility, would they
be able to find their way to their destination?
Is directional signage clear and easy
to spot? Are employees easy to identify
and prepared to answer most guest questions?
refers to the timeliness of service
and the willingness to help. The loyalty
factor is engaged when an organization
responds to a customer's need before he
or she even realizes that a need exists,
or when an organization goes above and
beyond the call of duty in responding
to a request.
years ago, the Institute held its annual
conference at a popular resort in South
Florida. Upon our arrival, we realized
that we had not shipped any nametag holders
for the conference. We asked our contact
at the hotel to provide directions to
the nearest office supply store. Instead
of sending us on our way, she offered
to go herself to pick up whatever we needed
so we could continue with our conference
preparations. She returned from the store
with a variety of nametag holders for
us to make a selection. We were so impressed
with her initiative and responsiveness
that we rewarded her service by returning
to the resort for our next four events.
That small investment of her time was
returned with thousands of dollars in
revenue for the hotel.
is the knowledge, courtesy, and professionalism
that build a customer's trust. Ensuring
that representatives are knowledgeable
requires that an organization invest in
effective training initiatives. They must
be targeted and ongoing. But training
alone will not guarantee knowledgeable
representatives. Hiring right, paying
appropriately, coaching effectively, measuring
accurately and rewarding often are critical
success factors for developing knowledgeable
representatives who can resolve most issues
on the spot.
is the caring, individualized service
that makes a customer feel valued. Loyal
customers are made when an organization
remembers their names and their likes
and dislikes. The Ritz-Carlton, for example,
has earned numerous customer service awards
by creating individual guest profiles
and offering personalized services; from
remembering a guest's preference in pillows
to making certain that their favorite
newspaper is delivered daily.
that these five dimensions of service
quality are integrated into your day-to-day
operations requires a commitment from
management. Exceptional customer service
must be incorporated as a primary business
goal and a core value of an organization
and must be reflected in its policies
and procedures. A constant process of
performance evaluation is also necessary
to ensure that the organization remains
that understands what its customers want,
and then provides it, will be on a fast
track to achieving customer loyalty.
with permission from the Customer Care