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How do you to exceed expectations with superior customer service and make your business stand out from competitors?
To be effective, customer service must excel in every part of the business. From the moment the customer thinks of purchasing to the final delivery of the product/service. Providing exceptional customer service is more than keeping customers happy. It’s also about revenue. A lost customer means lost income and an unhappy customer can damage the reputation of your business.
Exceptional customer service increases perceived value, whether that is rational (functional, quality, cost, etc.) or emotional (trust, service, communication, information).
Evaluating your current customer service process.
I am going to assume you already have clients. So ask yourself, now that I have them, how do I keep them long term?
The first step is conducting a personal self-assessment of your operation by applying the 80/20 rule. Your best clients are your existing clients. You should find that 80% of your work comes from 20% of your clients. We want to focus on that 20%. I’m not telling you to neglect your other clients, but for now, we want to concentrate on the work that you do for this 20%. So let’s do this 80/20 exercise.
80/20 Rule Exercise
Take a few moments and jot down your list of clients. You may have 5, or 2, or 20. Jot down their names and break them into the following categories:
- Customers you spend a lot of time on, they need your services, but you’re not making a lot of money for your efforts.
- Clients you spend the least amount of time on but gain the most income from. They tell you the plan and you execute it to their satisfaction. These customers don’t call because they changed their minds and say, “let’s do it this way”.
- Generating income is not your driving motivator (smile, because for some it isn’t). For example:
a. You receive residual benefit out of the relationship.
b. You support an organization that aligns with your mission.
c. You want to serve your local community. This may generate publicity, recognition, and income.
Now, if choice “1” generates the majority of your sales, focus on those clients; if your answer is “2”, focus on them; choice “3” – concentrate on that category. After you have chosen, make sure that your customer service exceeds their expectations. By doing so, they will continue to come back for additional services.
Ways to keep “GOOD” clients coming back!
12 ways to exceed expectations with superior customer service:
1. Don’t speak using industry jargon – customers don’t care. When communicating with your clients, speak using normal language in regular context. Leave out the technical details about how you do this or that. Jargon may alienate your client and result in misunderstanding and a breakdown in communication. Customers may think you mean one thing when you mean something else. So don’t use jargon; communicate clearly and effectively.
2. Show them that you have done your homework. You can impress your client by learning more about their industry and sharing new information. This will aid in developing trust and recognition as a valuable asset.
3. Involve your client in the operation. Use them as your point of reference. You are not the expert in their field, they are. So the best way to learn more is to involve your client and ask questions. They will appreciate what you are doing and see how interested you are in their business which could lead to your assuming more responsibilities.
4. Get to know your clients on a business and personal level. It can pay off in the end. Find out more about them, especially if they have an online biography, are members of different associations/groups, etc. Sweeten their self-interests. Everybody loves to hear YOU talk about them. So, talk about your clients. Let others know you work with someone they may find of interest or may want to develop a joint venture relationship with. If there is an opportunity where you can connect your clients, make the connection.That way, the client knows you are continuing to trust in their business. Become their go-to resource person and they will want to continue working with you.
5. Strengthen your relationships with your clients by:
- Suggesting ways of improving processes or services.
- Creating a win-win relationship by receiving compensation commensurate with the services you provide. It’s also important to relate the value you are giving to the compensation you are receiving. So just don’t continue adding value and not increase your rates – you must increase your rates, too.
- Developing a residual relationship with the client. Offer a maintenance-type agreement for services outside of your assigned duties. For example: Provide blog/plugin updates. Research and site submissions to search engines and directories, etc.
6. Have fun! At the end of the day, the best way to get results from your client is to make sure they are enjoying the relationship. Everything does not have to be about business. If it is their birthday, send a card. If something is occurring with the children, send a celebration message. Clients appreciate that you are providing STRESS-FREE relationship/partnership.
7. Over-document. You can never have enough useful documentation. If there is a major decision about a project or an assignment, record it in documentation. Give clients access to the information and encourage them to read it. You are documenting that you are the project expert. This process may also help you avoid future miscommunication issues. Putting information in writing will document requirements, your suggestions, agreements, costs, extra charges, etc.
8. Sticking to constraints. One thing I hate is someone missing a deadline. That just burns me to no end. If you have a deadline, make sure you adhere to it. There is a golden rule to project scheduling. You can only have two of Good, Fast or Cheap! So when you are considering the assignment, do you want to be good, fast or cheap. I hope you want to be good.
Part of that process is meeting deadlines. If there is a delay or you can’t meet the deadline, let the client know. Most clients are flexible, and if you come up against snags or a problem, tell them. They are usually understanding. I’m not saying miss your deadlines. Everyone is human. You are not a machine and neither are they. So it goes back to that level of high communication between you and your client. If you communicate and have an open relationship it will continue to prosper for as long as you are working together.
9. Under promise and over deliver. Give clients just a little bit extra. There are ways to impress clients besides meeting a deadline. Going above and beyond, even if just a little bit, will show your clients that you are on top of your assignment and a good manager. For example, listen and bring new ideas to the table with a plan of how to implement them.
10. Meet with your client. Schedule meetings to review projects, clarify situations and to make sure of expectations. Pick a regular date and time your client will adhere to (weekly, bi-weekly, once a month). It is important to hear the customer’s voice. While email is a good method of communicating, it can be misinterpreted. Develop a recurring checklist based on the conversation.
11. Quality First/Best Practices Second. Contrary to some beliefs, clients will pay for high-quality services. Let that sink in. First, you have to make sure that they value the quality. Best practices do not count!
If what you offer functions exactly the same as a product from someone else, why should the client hire you? Your clients don’t care that you exercise best business practices. But, they appreciate that you connect and communicate with them seamlessly. Quality work, delivery of service, and communication, make them happy. So give your clients services they appreciate. They will work with you for a long time.
12. Keep Selling. Often, clients don’t know how to describe all their needs.They hire you to fulfill their most prevalent wants, but may not be thinking about future needs. One way to identify information is to conduct a brief survey. Ask questions, which will generate more feedback and may lead to more work. Ask questions like:
a. Is my team professional, knowledgeable and competent?
b. How satisfied are you with the services?
c. How satisfied are you with response times?
d. How satisfied are you with my technology solutions?
e. Do you feel that I’m meeting your needs?
How to please the unhappy client
The unhappy client. If you misunderstood the project submitted it and the client didn’t like the outcome, ID what went wrong and redo it. These actions may provide an opportunity to regain the client’s trust.
Listen before interjecting your point of view. His issue may be something he didn’t think about. To give clarity to the situation, explain, not defend your action.
Get specific when talking about the issues. That’s important! No other way to say it. Don’t beat around the bush. Listen to your client. Give them plenty of opportunity and time to voice their grievances. That’s important because sometimes your client just wants you to hear them and to understand their concern. Your clients are not mad. They don’t want to end the relationship. But, they want you to hear the issue so that you can come to a resolution and then get over it.
Sometimes we may look at problems from a different perspective than the client. Listen to what they are saying, get clarification from them and then move on. This is your opportunity to wade through and resolve the issues that are pertinent to the situation.
Try to keep your ego out of the conversation. Don’t get defensive. If the situation gets so bad that you want to end the relationship, of course, do that. First, look at the situation from the client’s perspective.
In summary, keep these important points in mind for providing exceptional customer service.
- Show that you care.
- Spend a few extra moments talking about non-business-related topics.
- Send a postcard, industry-specific article, fresh baked cookies.
- Return telephone calls as soon as possible.
- Offer alternative suggestions to strategies you believe will not work.
- Always strive to be respectful and professional.
- Get your point across.
- Always think about your clients first. Throw that ego out the window, out the door. Listen to your clients. Hear what they have to say. If you disagree, do that in a reasonable and professional way.
- Clients like you to present your point of view and document why you reached it. Documentation is an important element of sustaining a long term relationship.
- If you are no longer comfortable with the relationship, get more clients.
Put yourself in the customer’s shoes. Learn what is important to them. Position your product/service to show them how it will save them money or time, increase their sales, reduce their expenses, make their life more enjoyable, less stressful, etc.
Remember, clients look for empathy and understanding, knowledgeable answers to their questions, attention to detail, respect, and fair treatment. As long as you can answer the question, “So what?” and provide brand equity and superior customer service you will keep your clients for a long time.