Sometimes I am struck by how easy it would be for those I patronize with my business to make me happy – if they would just make me feel like they appreciate my business! One of the simplest things we can all do to illustrate this care for a customer or potential customer is to promptly return phone calls. I have recently been dealing with two different vendors and made several attempts in e-mail and by phone to reach them. Good client service means not making your client feel that they have to “catch you” at your desk to reach you. No one wants to have to chase us down to give us their business. The purpose of this blog is to explore ideas to help us each be more responsive in our roles as service providers.
When you feel like you are too busy to call a client back, it’s better to set up an appointment with them either through an administrative professional on your team or to make the short call yourself to schedule a call at a future time. Your client is more likely to understand if you promptly call them back, explain your schedule constraints – along with your desire to give them the proper time and attention – and schedule a time that will work for you both.
If forgetfulness is the issue, and the sticky note on your desk isn’t cutting it, make an investment in a scheduling tool like your smart phone calendar, a PDA, or even your Outlook calendar reminder notifications. When a phone message comes in that you can’t return right away, take a minute to add it to your calendar for later that day (or the next day at the latest) and then stick to the time that you set. I find it helpful to add any new calls (and other tasks) to my running list of “to-dos” that I have opened at all times on my computer, along with a due date I set for myself. If you frequently get multiple messages in a day, schedule an hour on your calendar daily to return those phone calls. Making all the calls at once will be more efficient and allow you to plan the rest of your day better.
Another very simple thing that shows a client that you respect them and their business is to be honest. Yes, it’s that easy! Telling them when you cannot meet a deadline, keep a commitment, or have made a mistake is truly powerful in winning their trust. Share where or why things went wrong without making excuses, apologize with sincerity, and reset the expectation or explain how you will right the mistake.
Then follow through!
While every customer isn’t “always right,” it’s our job to try to satisfy them the best we can. In any situation where a client has expressed upset, disappointment, or frustration, it’s important to do our very best to remedy the issue and make it right with them. Just as no two individuals are the same, we will all have some “high maintenance” clients who expect a bit more than our “easy” clients. Unfortunately, we can’t put all people into a bucket and expect them to behave the same or react in the same way to similar situations. While this may not sound like a “simple” client service activity, and you’ve likely experienced some frustration of your own dealing with these more particular clients, they still deserve service providers who exhibit real concern for their satisfaction!
Finally, thank your clients for their business and their role in your firm’s success. Everyone wants to be appreciated and know that their business makes a difference. This may perhaps be the simplest way to exhibit excellent client service! It can be as straightforward as a heartfelt “thank you” during an in-person meeting or over the phone at the close of an engagement to a thank you letter and small gift as a token of appreciation at the end of a project or during the holidays. While a nice thank you won’t erase poor service throughout our relationships with clients, it certainly adds to our good reputation if we’ve been consistently diligent about showing them how much we value their business.
There are many ways to exhibit good client service, but in my mind, these are the few that should be “no brainers” and really can make all the difference to our clients. At a time when client retention – and addition – are at the top of everyone’s mind, it is vital to our businesses to practice good client service methods, no matter what stress is upon us or what our schedules look like. Personally, the activities in this blog are what would make me do business with one firm over another and/or return for future business and refer my friends.
How do you show your clients that they are important? What do you expect of your employees, and how do you hold your team accountable for good client service?
Please post a comment – we are interested!