10 Apr Customer Service
It is absolutely essential to nurture a superior culture of customer service within your business and team. Happy clients assist with the growth of your company through repeat visits and greater spend, and word-of-mouth referrals are hard to beat. Small business mentor Fiona Roberts addresses the importance of customer service and how your business can effectively maintain positive client relationships.
In our businesses we are supported by some wonderful professionals who we outsource certain aspects of our operations to. Mainly things like bookwork, IT, legal, accounting – essentially, the things we aren’t experts at or we don’t have to control. We love these guys, because they let us focus on what we are great at. Outsourcing just makes sense.
On the whole, I can (and do) recommend these professionals as shining stars in their field. But recently something tarnished my glowing opinion of one of our support professionals. One team member, in one of the companies we outsource to, began to exude a “not my job” attitude and was incredibly difficult to deal with … and unfortunately, it affected my relationship with an otherwise amazing company. It was nothing huge, and was easily rectifiable, but it did get under my skin, and I wasn’t happy.
Fortunately, I was lucky enough to have an excellent relationship with several other team members in this company, and when I picked up the phone, they were: a) embarrassed by what had happened; and b) proactive in terms of finding a solution. And if we are being completely honest here, THEY were lucky too. Because of the strength of our relationship and how they handled the situation, they retained our business and our respect.
The awesome thing about having something like this happen, is it gives us the opportunity to reconsider our own attitudes in similar circumstances. And I’m all about awesome. No-one can escape the reality that poor customer service will damage a business. And unfortunately, clients who have had a bad experience, will usually talk about it. Never ever forget that your clients pay your salary and make your job possible.
So, ask yourself some questions: Do you LISTEN to your clients? Do you treat them as individuals and make them feel appreciated? Do you look for ways to help them and anticipate their needs? Most customers will listen to their heart over their head – they buy good feelings and solutions. Treat them as individuals, make them feel loved, and above all, be sincere. Everyone values sincerity. People know when you are just going through the motions. Do you give your clients more than they expect? Do you have systems in place to ensure all of this happens? And – in the worst case scenario – do you know how to apologise and take ownership of an issue? Saying sorry is easy, and customers appreciate it. Make sure you deal with any issues immediately, and let the customer know what you’ve done to fix the problem. Like it or not, when things go wrong, it gives you an opportunity to improve and raise the standards of your business. Value customer complaints for what they are – pure gold.
And one last thing to consider – how do your clients interact with your business? Do they have more than one person who they can speak to? In my case, there were at least two other people I felt comfortable talking to – which allowed me to raise my issue, rather than remain frustrated. Do your clients have alternatives?
Asking these simple questions of yourself and your team, and actioning the answers, can help your business really excel. And while you are asking yourself these questions, consider your team. Showing your team appreciation and respect is probably going to improve their attitude towards customer service. Make them feel important too! Let’s face it – the easiest customer to find, is the one who you already know – all you need to do is make them feel special!
Originally published in Profile Magazine, April 2015