If you are losing clients/customers just as fast as you gain them or worse faster then you gain them, then reading this article 12-Tips For Exceeding Customer Service Expectations will be time well spent with even more power coming from implementing the ideas presented in it.
Tip#1 Make a Good First Impression
A customer’s first contact with your company must be a positive experience, regardless of whether that contact occurs via the telephone, the internet, or in person. It is after all generally the first chance to set the customer service experience. If clients generally call your company, make sure your receptionist interacts well with strangers and is knowledgeable about the business. And, whenever possible, avoid automated telephone recordings with confusing menus. If clients are likely to first encounter you via the internet, make sure your website is attractive, easy to navigate and, by all means, accurate. If you meet customers face-to-face, make sure they’re greeted with a smile and an immediate offer to provide assistance.
Whether the interaction is by telephone or in person, it is important for you to ask the question, “Am I, or any of my staff, wearing the day on our face or in our voice?” This could include things like the last issue you dealt with, any family issues, issues with the bank, or the last missed sale. If the answer is yes, realize that this could destroy the relationship with your client. Also, be aware that your staff will take their lead from you. Every customer or prospect deserves an ‘Opening Night’ experience all the time. Park the attitude and coach your employees to the same level of performance.
Tip #2 Outmanoeuvre Big Brands
When you’re small, you’re nimble. You have the opportunity to react to what you see happening in the market. You can change your plans based on what your customers are telling you (a properly designed customer service survey can be effective) or you can look for timely partners or tie-ins to what you’re doing. Bigger brands don’t have this luxury. It takes time for that advertising to be created, approved, and then sent out. It takes time for legal to reject, edit and then approve a new message the company wants to deliver. As a small business owner, the fact that you can bob and weave as necessary, is incredibly useful.
Few businesses, large or small, are engaged in efforts to WOW their customers, something that takes a relatively small investment in customer service strategies that can create big, fast wins as they leverage their nimbleness effectively.
Tip #3 Shoot Straight
Although it may be uncomfortable delivering bad news, most clients appreciate getting honest, complete information up-front, free of sugar-coating or promises on which you can’t deliver. Misleading your customers or leaving them in the dark about important things will make you appear deceptive and untrustworthy and is never a positive impact on the Customer Service experience.
In addition, consider adopting a strategy, if not a culture, of ‘UP- OD’, or ‘under promise, over deliver’. There is tremendous power in such an approach because we can’t exceed client expectations if we don’t first know their initial expectations and communicate clearly the actual agreed upon outcome/timing. Clear and concise communication with a client shouldn’t be a new concept and yet so few companies manage to accomplish it consistently. If a business does manage to do this, it represents a big customer satisfaction win. If you overlay that with an ‘over-deliver’ outcome, then you once again take another big step towards amazing your clients or at least exceeding their expectations.
Keep in mind that mistakes when corrected brilliantly and with the intent to WIN customers for life can in fact lead to higher customer loyalty. Go ahead, go out right now and make an intentional mistake with a client and then perform brilliantly in fixing the issue and the customer will be WOWed by your kindness and COMPLETELY forget about the issue.
With this in mind become brilliant at Problem Resolution and ensure everyone in the company is trained in brilliant Problem Resolution, exceeding the customer’s expectations when a mistake occurs and you will build loyalty across your entire portfolio.
Tip #4 R-E-S-P-E-C-T
Failure to show your clients the utmost level of respect could be detrimental to your professional relationship. For example, cancelling meetings at the last minute or appearing distracted when you talk to them could give the impression that you are too busy and you don’t respect them. Therefore, make sure to appear attentive to your customers’ needs and treat them as you would expect to be treated by someone else. I can image that “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” would never be a bad customer service strategy.
Tip #5 Return Messages Promptly
Whether you deal with customers in person, by phone, or via email, the cardinal rule of good customer service is to follow up when a customer contacts you. Delays in returning voice mails or neglecting emails give the impression that the customer is not important to you.
Tip #6 Treat Your Own People Well
Realize that your people will treat your customer the way they are treated. Employees take their cue from management. Do you greet your employees enthusiastically each day? Are you polite in your dealings with them? Do you accommodate their requests? Do you listen to them when they speak? Consistent rude customer service is a reflection, not as much on the employee, but on management. It is rarely a bad idea for the Executives to show themselves to the customer either. But please know what you are talking about.
Tip#7 Listen to Them and Hear What They Say
Just because you sit silently on the line as clients discuss their concerns does not mean you’re a good listener. You must listen to what they say, but you must also take action if the circumstances demand it, and you should digest the information so you remember the conversation. If you fail to take the appropriate action in response to a conversation, or if you’ve totally forgotten what a client said, the next time you speak to them, you’ll create the unfortunate impression that their needs aren’t important and that you don’t value their business.
Tip #8 Don’t Smother Them
While making customers know that you care is important, your attempts to convey that message should be tempered by professional courtesy. For example, phone calls should be kept to a reasonable level to avoid making clients feel harassed. Keep in mind that your clients are likely busy people who are paying you to take care of business. Don’t overburden them with details unless they specifically request it.
An important acronym to be familiar with is KYC or ‘Know Your Client’. If you know your customer, then you can set up your communication interaction to match what they want. Many of us are engaged in some form of constant contact marketing to clients and prospects. Clearly, not everyone wants information; even if we think it is valuable. So if we just blanket or bombard our customers with the same message, we run the risk of frustrating them to the point that they either stop listening, or worse, stop being our clients. The tighter you can categorize your customers, the more effective your constant contact will be.
Tip #9 Exude Confidence
Have you ever met with a store clerk or spoken to a customer service representative on the phone and got the impression that they weren’t very familiar with their company’s products or services? This phenomenon occurs much more often than it should. To be fair, can every employee in a company be expected to have an immediate answer to every question about every product or service? If, as a business, you start with a strategy or culture to UP-OD (See Ti #3), you might very well find the technology and training methodologies to ensure that every employee can know everything necessary. For certain, if that is the goal of the organization, employee capability will be stronger than if no such goal ever existed.
In the meantime, having an employee say “I don’t know” is never an acceptable answer when dealing with customers. Instead, the customer should be given an explanation of why the information isn’t readily available and a promise that you’ll get back to them promptly after a little research. The customer shouldn’t be left with the impression that employees are uninformed or that the company’s failure to train has created an insecure workforce. In all levels of a company, from lower level employees to the executives, all representatives of a company should exude confidence in every interaction with clients.
Tip #10 The Customer is Always Right—Even When They’re Not
If you’ve ever worked in a customer service position, then you know the old adage that ‘the customer is always right’ isn’t accurate. We all have customers who are difficult, or clients who make unreasonable demands. While you shouldn’t feel obligated to give in to every outrageous request a customer proposes, you should make every effort to calmly deal with dissatisfied customers and tactfully address their concerns. Telling a customer that he’s dead wrong, or calling her out for lying is never acceptable.
The best solution to client issues is to train you and your staff in a problem resolution process. The end game of any such process is to be able to articulate back to the customer what the issue is in your own words, so they understand that you ‘get it’. They should see you taking notes, or making reference to your notes if it is a telephone conversation, to further ease their mind that you are listening. Then, you need to take ownership for the issue. For example, “Thank you, Mrs. Johnstone, for sharing your concern. Now that I fully understand I will . . . ” The “I will,” shows ownership for resolving the problem. Then you fill in the blank with what you will, in fact, do. That is to say, commit to taking specific action. In the process, provide a time and date by which they will hear from you or a responsible decision maker. Then, of course, over deliver to the time and date.
Tip#11 Money, Money, Money
Some customers may be willing to tolerate an unreturned phone call here or there, an occasionally rude receptionist, or a cancelled meeting once in a while, but no one will think ou provide great customer service when you taking advantage of them financially. If you’ve quoted a price or a fee, stick to it. Honoring your financial commitments will go a long way in convincing your customers that you have integrity and that they can trust you. In contrast, hidden fees or surprise invoices will make you appear unreliable.
I have a client who often tells me about his client interactions. He will often finish his tales of success when he closes a deal with something along the lines of “I really stuck it to them!” Not cool, right? I agree and I am working with him to change that mindset. I’m of the opinion that the more open and seamless your agreements with your clients are, the stronger your relationships will be and the better your customer satisfaction rating will be.
Frankly, if you didn’t charge enough for a piece of project work (I’m speaking to the consultants reading this) suck it up and absorb the additional costs and impact on your gross margin.
Tip #12 Work With Your Clients, Not Against Them
Companies that implement policies intended to force the customer’s hand will invariably experience customer dissension. Long-term service contracts, for example, often contain hefty termination fees and other fine print provisions stacked against the consumer. If your routine policies make the customer feel like you’ve trapped them or positioned them so you can milk them for fees, they’ll assume you don’t want a working relationship and they’ll likely search for a better alternative.
As I suggested in the prior tip, the easier you make it for your customers to do business with you, the more they will do business with you. Imagine the power of a contract-free business environment. Scary? Only if you’ve made your business inordinately complicated. But even if you can’t make it contract-free, imagine the impact if you continuously strive to be contract-free. Put the onus on your business to make doing business with you easy.
Even better or equally good, apply Risk Reversal to your engagement conditions. Put the onus on YOU and OUR COMPANY to perform with a performance GUARANTEE. Here at Focus31 we have the Positive Experience Promise; If a client of FOCUS31 is not entirely satisfied wit the business plan learning journey we will refund the cost 100% PLUS only the client decides if they are satisfied.
Create an Opening Night Experience for every client, every day, every meeting, at every point of contact and you will EARN clients for life.
WHAT’S THE NEXT STEP?
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