Customer service counts
Ever had a poor customer service experience? It can leave you feeling a bit miffed and unappreciated as a customer or potential customer.
I seem to be highly attuned to my own customer service interactions, as a business consultant, for two reasons:
a.) These interactions often provide great real-world examples of how to do, or not do things in a business. That can be useful when I’m trying to convey a message to clients I’m working with.
b.) They hold up a mirror to our own performance on the customer service front here at FP Advance. That is, sometimes I experience poor service and ask myself, “Where do we do the same thing to our clients?”.
Customer Service Essentials
Customer service is a mindset and an attitude. Some businesses have it, but lots don’t.
Here are two key service interactions to get right in order to excel in your own customer service.
How the Phone is Answered
This seems like such a small thing, but how the phone is answered in your office is a key first impression for your business. Take note of the way other businesses you interact with answer their phones.
In the last few months I’ve called more than a few smaller advisory firms where the phone isn’t even answered. I don’t mean it’s been answered badly, or that it goes to message bank, I mean it’s not answered at all.
If I were a potential new client referred to those businesses, what sort of first impression does that create?
How many new clients call those firms, get no response, and end up going to another adviser?
Not answering the phone at all is the most extreme example of a poor initial impression and service experience. However, I’d also include going to an answering machine, if the call is made during normal business hours, as a pretty poor option as well.
Steps to improve how your phone is answered
Think about how the phone is answered in your business (if you are not sure give yourself a call to check).
Does the way the phone is answered convey an impression of:
Wanting to do business?
Helpfulness and professionalism?
Confidence and knowing your stuff?
Impressions to avoid:
Being flustered and busy
Not wanting to do business at all
Being totally unhelpful
Unprofessional or out of your depth
Just not keen enough to earn the business – There are plenty of other alternative suppliers out there a caller could choose to work with.
Incompetence and lacking professionalism in the way message taking is handled
The right approach
If someone calls for you and you are not available, what does your team say? Do they just take a message after informing the caller that you are unavailable? Or do they energetically ask if they can be of assistance (and mean it)?
There’s a world of difference in the two approaches.
If phone answering is a problem because you’re a one person business, or your team are busy doing a range of other tasks, get a phone service like Moneypenny on board.
You’ve got to ensure that this simple, yet vitally important task is performed professionally.
2. How You Respond to Client Queries
How a business responds to client queries clearly demonstrates its commitment to its clients.
There are three key components:
Time frame – speed of response
Attitude – of those responding
Business systems – technology you use to respond
Clearly the attitude within your team needs to be one that is totally client centric and empathetic. The team need to understand what it feels like to be a client, and to treat them respectfully and helpfully.
One of the best ways to do this is to hold team discussions on a regular basis about their own poor service experiences. You can unpick as a group why the service experience was so frustrating, and then take time to examine your own client interactions to see if any of those issues are also issues for you and your team.
It’s amazing how some team members can easily identify poor service when it affects them directly, but can’t quite make the jump to how they may do some of the same things to your clients.
Your business systems will also determine your speed of response time, as will client numbers. If your systems are poor, and/or you have too many clients, no amount of ‘can do’ attitude will compensate.
Even if you do have an fantastic client-centred team in place, lack of time and space created by systems issues or excessive client numbers can quickly destroy their morale and effectiveness.
Cool customer service
It’s always worth revisiting your client service interactions. How the phone is answered and how you respond to your clients’ queries are two simple but important places to start.
Don’t forget to pay attention to your own experiences, and the experiences of your team members, out in the world. You’ll find loads of opportunity to learn from the good and bad things you see other businesses doing when it comes to customer service.
Let me know how you go.