Are you committed to client service?
By Bill Cates
Your referability is driven by the process you put your new clients through, and the service you provide throughout the relationship. Providing superior service -- the kind that gets your clients talking about you -- comes from a strong commitment to service. But the commitment is not enough. You commitment must be displayed through your actions. In this article, I'll demonstrate some areas of service that need to be top notch in order for you to retain your clients and get them talking about you to others.
Thank your clients often
Almost every rep I meet understands the value of sending a thank-you note after making a sale or performing a service, yet most reps are not in the habit of doing this. This gesture alone will help you to stand out in a crowded marketplace. How many thank-you notes did you send out last year? Send out twice as many this year.
Show your appreciation
You can show you appreciate your clients in many ways besides thank-you notes.
Many reps like to keep a steady stream of ad specialties flowing to their client: mugs, pens, sticky-notes, and the like. I suggest you look for even more creative ways to use ad specialties as part of your appreciation mix. After all, something with your logo on it is not really a gift. It's an ad for your business.
I know of one rep who sent inspirational poems mounted in walnut frames to his clients at Thanksgiving. As they count their blessings, the clients are among them. Client appreciation events are a great way to show your appreciation. Invite your clients to group dinners, sporting events, boat rides, and the like. Building this type of relationship with your clients shields them from the competition.
Create superior internal client service
You already know that you have external clients, but have you thought about who your internal clients are? They are your employees, your home office representatives and specialists, and others that help you in your efforts to help your clients. If they are not serving the clients directly, then they are serving someone who is serving the clients -- usually you. These internal relationships usually work both ways. They are your clients, because they deliver goods, services, or information to you so that you can better serve the external client. You are their client because you have to deliver information to them so that they can do their job most efficiently and effectively.
It is a lot easier to create loyal external clients if your internal clients are cared for and supported. Research shows that the way an organization's internal clients are treated is ultimately the way the external client will be treated.
Have you (and your firm) identified all your internal clients? Do you sit down together on a regular basis to discuss how you can serve each other better so your external clients are served impeccably?
Never tell a client they are wrong
We all know the client is not always right, but we have to be very careful how we let them know that. I once took some negatives to a photo lab to be turned into prints. It was about 20 different negatives, so the order was a little complicated. I read off the numbers I wanted printed to the store clerk and she recorded them. When she read the order back to me, it was not what I had requested. She immediately told me, in an accusatory tone, that I had given her the wrong numbers. Of course, I became mildly angry.
The truth of the matter is that I may have made a mistake. We'll never know for sure. But when she accused me of the error, she damaged her and the lab's relationship with me. I may go back to that lab in spite of her, but certainly not because of her.
Be very careful how you let clients know they've made a mistake. Take as much on yourself as possible, as long as it's a communication mistake that won't get you into trouble with the SEC. And when you do have to tell them, do it in a teaching manner -- not arrogantly or patronizingly -- but from a place of genuine care and concern.
Call clients with status reports
As you are doing work for your clients, it's a good idea to contact them from time to time with status reports. You can call them, but e-mail is usually just fine. Let's say you're researching some pension options for a client. As you work through your process to do this, dash off an e-mail to your client a couple of times to let them know you're still working on it (maybe waiting for someone to get back to you). Your clients will appreciate you keeping them in the loop.
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