A key to customer service: take advantage of moments of truth
By Sandy Schussel
Sandy Schussel, LLC
Several years ago, I appeared as a guest on the BlogTalkRadio program "Greenpath to Wealth," hosted by Coretta Fraser. I shared seven strategies to turn yourself into a client magnet. At least one listener, Barbara, had questions that never made it onto the program. But I'd like to share one of her thoughts with you here:
"Sandy, you noted the importance of building relationships. One of my pet peeves is customer service. What would you consider to be some key best practices for providing excellent service to existing customers while maintaining profitability?"
For as long as I’ve been doing this work, I’ve maintained that how you treat existing clients or customers is critical to your growth. This is particularly true if your service is one that allows you to work continuously with the same clients, either repeating what you do with them or offering different services to them as time passes.
But it's also true even if yours is a "one-time" service. The people who have experienced working with you even once are an important source of referrals, recommendations, testimonials and introductions — and you are responsible for staying in touch with them, and in the front of their minds, after the job has been done.
Best practices start with an understanding of what great customer service actually means. It’s not just how well you perform the technical aspects of the service you provide. Doing that will satisfy your clients, but it won’t make them loyal, proactive advocates. They won’t go out of their way to use you again and they won’t tell stories about how amazing you are.
Great customer service involves the feelings that customers or clients experience when they work with you. Certainly, if there is no technical proficiency, they’ll have some bad feelings, but you can also make a lot of mistakes and still leave them feeling great about you.
Their feelings, ultimately, depend upon two elements:
1. How much contact you have with them
2. How magical your contacts are.
When I was practicing law, if I handled a real estate or business closing, I always brought a bottle of champagne to give to my clients — whether they were buyers or sellers — when the deal was consummated. It produced smiles and a sense of gratitude that instantly put all of the emotional ups and downs of the previous weeks or months behind us. Realtors who came to my closings to pick up their checks were envious. “I should have thought to do something like that!” one of them once confessed to me. My small, relatively inexpensive gesture helped to ensure that those same clients would come back to me for additional services and would recommend me to their friends in the meantime. On a few occasions, the clients of the other attorney would call me to handle their next transaction.
Build the following list with every client, and you’ll watch your business thrive:
Respect: Every client wants to feel like he or she is your only client and the most important person in the world to you.
Empathy: Every client needs to feel you have truly listened to him or her. As the saying goes, “Be impressed, not impressive.”
Action: Do what you say you will do. The smallest action on your part is far more powerful than the greatest intention.
Communication: Be proactive. Don’t make the client call you to find out something you could have told him/her first.
Trust: In part, trust comes out of doing all the other parts correctly. As too often happens, however, you have great empathy and communication skills, but these traits have not fully assimilated into the culture of your company or office. Your associates and every member of your staff need to be in this with you.
Everything you do — and don’t do — with a client should be thought of in terms of moments of truth — opportunities to make an impression. Every moment of truth should be as special, unusual and as magical as you can make it. That’s the best practice that Barbara could possibly implement.