Let’s face it, at some point in time, even the very best business runs into customer or client relations problems at times. It can be as simple as a missed email to a perceived lack of value, damaged goods or even personality conflicts. It doesn’t matter if you are a B2B or B2C business, if you deal with people (both internal and external) situations in need of attention arise.
Whether you are a start-up, or a seasoned business with multiple divisions, the obvious beginning is to hire a staff of people with passion, pride, vision and expertise. Having caring, competent individuals whose primary mission is to fulfill the needs of your customers to help the business grow and prosper by helping your customers is paramount.
According to a study by the Research Institute of America, the average business will not hear a peep from 96% of their unhappy clients. You would think that’s good news, but trust this expert and know it’s NOT. For one, these folks are NOT communicating with you, so you have no clue what the issue is or how to address it. The worse news is that you not only have lost their business, but, you also have tarnished your reputation in the industry.
Dissatisfied clients don’t just go away quietly into the night. They TELL at least nine other people about their unhappy experience. And 13% of disgruntled clients tell more than 20 people, according to a study conducted for the former White House Office of Consumer Affairs. And, with the explosion of social media, the potential damage from negative word-of-mouth is staggering knocking down businesses with a mere touch of a screen.
While everyone in your business should be in-tune with creating the best customer or client experience, there needs to be a person or place an unhappy or dissatisfied client can go for resolution…a client ambassador. If you’re a one person company, congrats that’s you!
The goal as a company is to have customer service that is not just the best but legendary. ~ Sam Walton, Founder of Walmart
So, how do you create legendary customer service? No matter how small a business, having a plan at the outset, with steps to take from the initial contact with a client/customer through their engagement with your products or service can save time, money and lost or ruined relationships.
Take these 3 steps I’ve been using here at CHI for years with success to get your customer/client service teams in line and aligned for the greatness that will keep your customers/clients happy. But go further by growing them beyond even just loyal customers/clients—how about into fanatics that love you so much they tell everyone in their circles they have to do business with you?
- Understand the following items clearly and make sure your team does too:
What is the first contact? The founder of our company, Chet Holmes, described the responsibility to a client, or potential client, as “a moral obligation.” Do you agree?
Is your product or service going to benefit them? If you believe it is, you want to sincerely project that from the very first meeting or contact.
- Outline each action required to drive consistency in leading each client to the best possible experience with your product, service and/or representatives.
The single most important thing to remember about any enterprise is that there are no results inside its walls. The result of a business is a satisfied customer. -Peter Drucker
Unhappy or concerned clients can burn out your customer service or client relations staff or departments without a clear, step-by-step approach to handling situations. I’ve given many ‘you can do it!’ speeches to teams over the years when the processes are not in place to keep our customers happy and they are exhausted and frustrated.
- Most issues are easily handled if the client or customer knows who to call or go to… but, if they have to search and/or jump through hoops to find someone to listen, your business will effectively achieve two things:
- A very aggravated client/customer.
- A very stressed, on the way to “burn out” customer service or client relations person(s).
Simply stated, the best way to keep your clients and those they work with fired up is to have a plan and communicate far and wide.
If you’d like to see if you have the right elements in place for delivering customer/client service that speaks volumes about the value of your brand, you’ll find more in Customer Care Pro™,
Let’s look at a very simplified, but effective plan for handling client/customer issues, improve the relationships and create raving fans to spread the good news about your company, your people, your products and/or services… and most importantly their experience(s):
Set expectations up front:
o What are they buying?
o How will it be delivered?
o What’s included
o Who is involved?
o Who can they call?
o Will a welcome call, letter, receipt or email be sent, giving them names and numbers of who to call with questions or concerns?
o Are there good notes being kept in your CRM system (if applicable) so you know the history of this client/customer?
o Is there an agreement/contract to refer to? Written agreements avoid ‘he said – she said’ situations.
o If in a B2C situation, are your policies posted so customers are aware of return, exchange or replace situations?
o What are your refund policies, guarantees, etc.?
Patience: in the event an issue arises, the person or people involved must exercise patience so the client/customer feels like they can vent or simply ask their questions freely.
Listening: with the hundreds of clients I have spoken with, the one, overriding thing they crave is an ambassador, a person who will hear them out… and, most of the time, this alone solves the issue, problem or concern.
Empathy: They are human beings and need to feel that you understand their concern.
Empower: Have you empowered those dealing with clients/customers in these situations with the authority to act? It takes considerable time to go through the above steps, only to then tell an unhappy client or customer that you’ll have to get back to them! When they do, they are starting all over again.
o Case Study: Several years ago, I was involved as a District Sales Training Manager for a national portrait studio chain. The company did over 60% of their annual revenue in the period between Halloween and the week before Christmas. This created stressful situations for the staff as customers with children would have to wait longer than usual for their appointments.
o We taught the staff (photographers/sales people) a small visualization to change the atmosphere: they were to look up at the entrance to the camera room and picture that it said “their name’s Camera Room.” It empowered them to take control and allowed for a pleasant experience for both the customers and the staff.
Achieving absolute excellence through unparalleled customer/client service should be the goal of every business and every person involved in that business. After all:
Customers don’t expect you to be perfect. They do expect you to fix things when they go wrong. -Donald Porter, V.P. British Airways
By, Mikki M.A. Shepard President, Client Relations/Ombudsman at Chet Holmes International