As part of our initiation into the Instant Imprints family, my business partner and I attended Instant Imprints University, an intense program that took us through the various business and operational aspects of running the franchise. One of the many takeaways we had from this course was the 6 Keys to Customer Satisfaction – a research based listing of key drivers of business in our industry. In fact any industry. And, small/medium businesses can use these to increase their chances of success.

The 6 keys from least to most important are:

6. Competitive Pricing – contrary to perception pricing is not always the key driver to buying decisions. Yes, you need to be competitive in pricing to succeed in the marketplace. But you need not be the cheapest. Remember the customer who only wants cheap, is the wrong customer for you. If you provide a competitive price and exceed in all other five areas, you will get the business you want and people will see value in a business relationship with you.

5. Timely response to customer questions or concerns – An open and clear communication process throughout the conversation with your customer. It helps you uncover concerns quickly and address, correct or redress them immediately. Concerns of a customer are always relevant to the relationship and future business. Not addressing these concerns will not make them go away. Everytime you deal with customer concerns, you need to match the customer’s intensity level. Remember all good businesses make promises to their customers. Only great businesses keep their promises to customers.

4. Quality – Always remember that the quality of your product is also a reflection of your customer’s business. Cheap quality can reflect poorly on your customers. If you have to depend on outside vendors for a great part of your process, choose them with care. Don’t go on price alone. Remember, they will hold your reputation on hand. Put yourself in your customer’s shoes and redo your (at your cost) work if you think it will not meet your own standards.

3. Have products available when needed – Remember the customer comes to you in times of their need. And, if you are not able to fulfill that need you would have lost the customer for good. Success in this area is often dependent on the “upfront contract” you create with your customer when they contact you. If you are in the business of creating custom products, like we are, everything takes time and money. Negotiate a clear timeline with the customer. Let them know reasonable time lines mean regular pricing. Unreasonable time lines mean rush pricing. You are the expert and let your customers have the benefit of your expertise in this matter.

2. Accurate order fulfillment – Here again, the more custom your business the more critical is this part. You need to take and fulfill your order correctly. Nothing sets off a customer more than an order wrongly done. If you depend on third-party vendors for fulfillment, it is your responsibility to ensure that they take and fulfill the order correctly. The keys to this part are patience, attention to detail and above average communication skills. Do it all in writing.

1. Prompt and Timely Delivery of Orders – There is a reason they call it deadline – you miss it and you are dead!!  Jokes apart, meeting your delivery timeline every time is a competitive advantage you can leverage successfully in the marketplace. It is one of the key reasons customers will keep coming back to you – because they know you will not let them down. Here again, if you have a dependency on third party suppliers, choose them very carefully. They should be able to live up to the delivery promises you make to your customers. Remember, delivery “always on or before time” will set you apart from your competition.

So, here are the six keys to driving great customer satisfaction in your business. These keys were first postulated by Dr. Marjorie Cooper at the Baylor University who works closely with the promotional products industry. But these keys, on their own, are universal in their application and can be used by small and medium businesses of all types. It is up to you to implement them. Here is wishing you success in your business.