Better service equals better referrals
By Bill Cates
In my last column, I gave you some ideas to help you enhance your referability by improving your client service. Here are some more ideas to help you with that.
Know your competition
When you know your competition well, it not only gives you a selling advantage early on, but also continues to help you serve and sell to your client throughout the relationship. You should always serve your clients with the knowledge that they are your competitors' prospects.
Do you know what pressures your clients are under to move their business? Do you know what they say to all those other financial professionals who call them? If you don't, I suggest you get to know your clients better and find out. The more you know about your competition, the more you can do to make sure you are better than they are.
Your clients may not use you for all their financial needs. Do you know who else they are using and why? Do you know what they like and dislike about them? Not only will you learn from this, you may also find opportunities to increase your percentage of the business they do with you.
Get to know your clients better
Whenever possible, get to know your clients beyond whatever brought you together in the first place. Form business friendships with as many clients as you can. Get to know them as people. Take a genuine interest in them. Not every client wants you to do this, but most will appreciate it.
The clients who give me the best referrals and continue to give me referrals long after I've served them are those I now count as business friends. If your attitude is strictly business, you are probably missing tons of opportunities for referrals, not to mention more business from your existing clients.
Bottom line: Creating business friendships increases client loyalty and enhances your referability.
Survey your clients over the phone
You should be constantly asking your clients, "How am I doing? If we could do one thing better, what would it be?" And you should be asking these questions over the phone, not in writing. Here are six reasons to conduct your client surveys over the phone:
1. You obtain more useful information -- it's easier to talk than it is to write.
2. You demonstrate how much you care about serving them well.
3. You obtain more honest information -- it's easier to "open up" over the phone than in person.
4. Your response rate will be much higher -- close to 100 percent.
5. This is another personal contact with your clients.
6. You can communicate feelings and intentions much better in a conversation than you can in writing.
- Serve them by giving referrals. If they have a need -- financial or otherwise -- and you're not the right person to serve them, connect them with someone who can. Follow up to make sure your referral has "gone through."
- Don't just be there for them from nine to five. Write your cell phone number on your business card as you give it to them. They'll likely never use it unless they really need to, but it reassures them.
- Keep your word. Doing what you're supposed to do, when you are supposed to do it, is the very minimum required to provide good client service and get referrals.
- When something goes wrong (and it will), apologize. When you apologize, you're not admitting fault, you're just saying you're sorry they are being inconvenienced. It reduces tension because it demonstrates you are there for them. (Almost no one in business ever says they're sorry.) Then, immediately after you apologize, fix the problem as quickly as possible. Even if it's too late to fix the problem, they'll feel better if you really listen to them.
- Set high service standards for yourself and your firm, and tell your clients about them.
- If a clients stops doing business with you, don't burn the bridge. Go out of your way to make them feel comfortable about coming back.
- Say "thank you" every time you get the chance.