Saturday night; ordering an on-demand movie whose release I’ve anxiously awaited. But wait, I receive an on-screen message that my “internet speed is too slow to stream the movie at this time,” which is very odd since I don’t connect through my internet service, but a direct line to the satellite provider. Call customer service; recording tells me wait time is only 5 minutes (yes!)—45 minutes later a representative comes on the line who can’t explain what has changed to prevent me from accessing the movie, but who will be happy to connect me to their manager who may be able to do so. When told that I’ve already waited 45 minutes, and then query them as to additional wait time, the response is “at least 45 minutes; would you like me to connect you?”
Have you ever wondered, “What has happened to true customer service?” The concept is not rocket science: you enter into a new relationship with a customer; you treat them well; you keep them as your customer; and then by word-of-mouth, you get new customers. Sounds easy, right? Experience has shown it is much easier to sustain your business by retaining customers than by constantly having to replace unhappy ones.
What have I learned in my 35 years of supporting Andesa’s clients? Note, I said clients—not customers. There is a subtle, but important, distinction; a customer is a person or organization that buys goods or services from a business; a client is a person or organization using the services of a professional person or company. Buying denotes a short-term or more disposable relationship, while using denotes an ongoing, more long-term, professional, and often personal, relationship.
So how can the trend of wide-spread abysmal customer service be reimagined to exceptional client service? The answer is to build and maintain relationships. Let’s talk about the five steps required:
Get to know your client. All relationships are better when the participating individuals take the time to get to know one another. Learn what makes your client “tick” on a personal level–what do they enjoy, what do they dislike, what are their pet peeves, how do they like to be treated, how can you make a difference to them? The Golden Rule to “treat others the way you want to be treated” can be improved upon by developing a relationship with your client to be “treat others the way they want to be treated.”
Communicate, communicate, communicate. Never leave a client wondering. Be accessible. Reach out via phone as often as possible instead of via email. Relationships thrive on personal interaction.
Be honest, fair and transparent. Honesty IS the best policy. Sometimes in a relationship it is healthier to say “no” than “yes” for the other person’s benefit. A strong relationship is built on trust and mutual respect. Honesty, fairness and transparency bolster trust and respect for the long-term.
Don’t point fingers. You and your client-partner are now a team. Team members don’t point fingers at each other when things go wrong. Together we got here; together we will decide how we move forward. Of course, if the issue was your fault, accept responsibility, genuinely apologize and move on. Blame-shifting is a huge waste of time and energy and never resolves an issue.
Go above-and-beyond. Your client’s experience when interacting with you should be the feeling that they are your only client. Issues that arise due to other commitments are not of their concern, and should never be used as an excuse or crutch while servicing them. Understand that your client’s success is your success, and your actions matter.
So join me in creating an environment where these common-sense steps rule. Authentic client service fosters relationships that will be some of the most rewarding of your lifetime.