Customer service excellence can best be achieved and sustained through customer intimacy. Customer intimacy is a relationship of trust and loyalty that has been built through deliberate investment in customers in order to understand, support and serve them. Customer intimacy makes you aware of expectations and serves to meet them. It is not happenstance, it is not a stroke of luck, it a purposeful commitment to understand and fulfill the needs of a client. It is a long-term, consistent and honest strategy.
Every year, as February approaches, we get constant reminders about how to ‘wow’ sweethearts, showing them how much they are appreciated, valued and loved. This Valentine season, as chocolates, flowers, balloons and cards circulate, let’s show a different kind of love. A bit more subtle – but no less powerful, by focusing on creating strong relationships that work wonders for your business as well as your client’s. This time, you have to make Valentine’s day last a little longer- actually, all year! This is an endeavor that has become even more necessary in today’s world. The effects of the recession continue to reverberate through the economy, in spite of improvements recorded in certain segments and survival has made clients more cost conscious, more aware of choices and more demanding of value.
This Customer Service Bootcamp focuses on steps that will help inject love into your business, keeping your customers happy and loyal. Here are our 5 crucial points:
1. Understand Who Your Customer Really Is: Your customer isn’t just the person who buys from you. Your customer is a stakeholder, anyone who has an interest in your business, anyone who encounters any part of you and your business even in seemingly insignificant ways. Your customers may be external – buying customers, prospects, auditors etc or they could be internal – colleagues, board members etc. Everyone deserves star treatment and once you understand this core principle, you are one big step closer to achieving amazing customer service and creating that environment for ‘love’ to thrive.
2. There Is A Tangible Financial Impact Of Customer Service: Profit margins start to shrink and the lifetime value of customers dwindle significantly when poor service is experienced. Repeat business, referrals, new client entry are all affected by the experience encountered by clients. Thousands of dollars are lost every year by small and large businesses that find clients switching brands and going to competition. Hundreds of thousands of dollars in some cases where contracts are withdrawn, pre-orders are cancelled and negative reviews or word of mouth detractors discourage prospective clients’ from patronizing you. This loss of business does not just affect the company as a corporate entity or its brand image, it affects individual jobs which can no longer be sustained, it affects employees’ ability to negotiate better pay or hours as margins are tighter and conditions are less favorable.
3. Introduce Your Top Ten Non-negotiable Traits To Your Team. Simple, basic and achievable but when consistent across a company, can send a very powerful message. Could the following be yours?
- Be punctual – to respond to emails, to get to the office, to attend meetings and prompt to answer phone calls.
- Be competent– understand your job, understand what your customer needs, be ready to provide options or look for new ways of doing things. Leverage your expertise.
- Be presentable – Look neat, respectable and approachable. You don’t need designer shoes and clothes. Just be clean, decent and appropriately dressed.
- Be compassionate – Show genuine regard, be helpful and ready to take the lead to resolve any complaint brought to your attention or at least start the process.
- Be respectful – Always remain polite and calm, even during a dispute. That is the only way to maintain control of the situation
- Be credible – Let your word be your bond. Be truthful, trustworthy and reliable. Be upfront when you fall short of expectations and seek ways to remedy the situation with sincerity.
- Be ready to go the extra mile – If a client could benefit from some extra news, tips, navigation help or savings ideas, offer it.
- Be A Team Player – If a team member is unavailable and your input would help a customer, offer to help.
- Be A Service Star – Be a service champion. Understand the difference between bad, acceptable and exceptional customer service. What is normal in your industry or business? What extras can you introduce? It might be as simple as saying ‘have a nice day’ as clients leave. After standing an extra 10 minutes at the grocery store checkout counter, that always calms me down a little. Hey, I’m usually easy to please but so are a lot of people. Some others may need a bit more ‘wowness’.
- Be Professional – Leave the drama at home. Let your clients not pay for you having a bad day!
4. Focus On Your Offering As A ‘Solution’ And Not A ‘Service’. This will give you more insight as to whether your service is enough of a solution or if you might need to consider tweaking it to enhance its value to your clients and your own business too. What is the ‘problem’ that clients face when they come to you or your competition? Customize solutions that are unique to your client’s business and need. Find out from clients how your service or the delivery of that service could make their next experience more suited to their needs. The love starts when you really love them in a way that they want to be loved!
5. KYC- Create A Culture That Speaks Of Your Passion For Customers: Whether your business is just you or a team of a thousand people, your culture must be service-oriented and consistent. Encourage your team to buy into the ‘Know Your Customer’ culture. As customers start to trust you, they start to reveal personal goals, aspirations and business plans for the future. Don’t’ take that for granted. Record important milestones if you know them – birthdays, company anniversaries, marriages, births and other celebrations that you might have future opportunities to act on. This may be when the cards and balloons are needed! Emphasize to your team the importance of exceptional customer service at every service point from the receptionist and security guard right through to the President/MD/ CEO. That is really when love is in the air. Not just at the customer service desk or in the manager’s office, but everywhere in that office – literally, in the air. Reward service stars for showing excellence and encourage ‘copycats’.
If dealing with unpleasant situations, make a judgement call – Tough love may be needed but that is never the same as a lack of love. Your goal is relationship building as a key part of your overall company strategy, and the entire team should be laser focused on this.
Happy Valentine’s Day To You and Your Business! Remember – ‘Excellence is never an accident, it is a commitment, a deliberate choice’.