When I think of customer service, a department store register or the counter at a fast food restaurant usually comes to mind. While these are certainly archetypes of the quintessential business/customer interaction, customer service goes far beyond retail — it seeps into every industry, public or private, no matter the transaction type or parties involved.
Regardless of what services you offer, your clients are, hands down, the most important part of your business. I know this isn’t necessarily news to you — everyone knows that customer service matters, but have you actually taken the time to think about how client perception impacts your business?
Communication is Key
From the first interaction you have with a potential client to the ongoing conversations you have with your regulars, communication can make or break everything. Your clients need to feel valued and understood — and they’re far more likely to have a good opinion of your customer service if they feel they’re getting personalized assistance.
When someone first shows interest in your services, start a conversation immediately. Provide any information requested — and once you’ve made individual contact, don’t let the communication channel close up. Just as in retail, a missed opportunity to engage can translate to a lost sale.
For your current clients, make sure that both you and your staff are open and available to communicate whenever needed. Check email, voicemail, social media — any medium a client might use to get in contact — as often as possible.
Everyone Makes Mistakes
Poor service quality directly affects your bottom line. If clients are unhappy, they will tell anyone who will listen — including your followers on social media.
Deal with complaints right away and do whatever it takes to fix the problem. Show sincere concern for their feelings (because you should be concerned) and give them a little something extra as a token of goodwill — whether it be a discount, upgrade, or freebie. Even when you’re unable to resolve the problem, your diligent effort will speak volumes.
Also, take a moment to appreciate clients who take the time to complain. These clients are essentially business allies — they point out where you need to make improvements, helping you to raise the quality of your customer service. And remember, for every client that complains, another may have just walked away.
When you make a promise to a client, it’s imperative you keep it. If you say you’ll have a project done by Wednesday, and don’t deliver until Friday, you’re in danger of destroying a potentially beneficial relationship.
There’s a simple way to not only keep promises, but delight your clients at the same time. Under promise and over deliver. For example: your client needs a detailed report on the state of their project. You know it will take you two hours to complete the report. You tell your client it will take you three hours. When you finish the project in a shorter time frame than you originally set, your customer feels as if you made them a priority.
Offer a Little More
If you tend to only offer clients bonuses upon signing up for your services, it's time to branch out. Offer discounts, freebies, or gifts to your current clients as well. These unexpected gifts can cement good relationships and give your clients even more reason to leave favorable reviews and spread positive word of mouth. A happy client is some of the best advertising out there.
Excellent customer service is invaluable. It’s more than just what you do to attract and retain clients, it’s the public face of your business — and it’s what has the potential to skyrocket you to success, or plunge you into the depths of failure. So, if you think customer service is just for sales associates at Macy’s — think again.
Liz Greene is a dog loving, beard envying, pop culture geek from the beautiful city of trees, Boise, Idaho. You can catch up with her latest misadventures on Instant Lo or follow her on Twitter @LizVGreene.
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