Customer satisfaction is the focus of numerous business bestsellers, well-attended weekend conferences, and daily training in thousands of different companies. Countless business meetings wrestle with agendas covering issues such as customer retention, customer loyalty programs and whether to bring in the newest customer satisfaction guru to provide instruction on the intricacies of customer management. The best tips for satisfying the customer are bought and sold as if they were mysteries. Yet anyone seeking these tips has been a customer many times over and knows why he returns to the same business as a repeat customer. The best tips for satisfying the customer are basic and fundamentally involve courtesy, meeting customer needs, recognizing repeat customers, and handling problems promptly and without excuses.
Courtesy, courtesy and courtesy should be the first three items in a list of ways of satisfying the customer. Whether an employee is instructed to smile, look the customer in the eye, or ask, "May I help you?," these are all signs of courtesy. Frequent use of polite expressions, like "thank you" and "please," also demonstrate this quality. Other signs include engagement and prompt interaction with the customer, as opposed to ignoring a customer waiting for service or immediately putting a telephone customer on hold. Furthermore, if this trait characterizes customer interactions, there will often be no need to write a separate procedure manual on handling customer complaints; problems will be dealt with promptly as courtesy would demand.
Satisfying the customer is also accomplished by meeting his or her needs, whether a business sells a product, service or experience. The luxury car, individualized yoga instruction or can of corn should be as advertised or at the very least, congruent with the customer's expectations. In certain situations, something in addition to the actual purchase may be required — a quick transaction, free delivery or a discount for a special order — the provision of which can earn the business enormous customer loyalty. Businesses that meet these needs in an atmosphere of courtesy and respect are satisfying the customer at a fundamental level that does not require bells and whistles, or even special employee training.
Another important tip for satisfying the customer is recognizing and acknowledging returning customers. Repeat customers are key to any business's success and companies should recognize their importance as opposed to taking them — and their patronage — for granted. Calling customers by name, remembering how they like their steak or that their daughter is studying in Italy underscores them that they are not just anonymous in the eyes of the company, but real people who also happen to be valued customers.