No matter what you do in your business or what service you provide, one thing unites us all: the need to keep our clients happy.
When starting out, keeping clients and prospects happy can be the difference between making headway as a credible business and going under. It can also result in all-important word-of-mouth referrals.
Having just won a 2013 UK Customer Experience Award we thought we’d share some of the most important things we’ve learnt about keeping customers happy.
Be clear about what customers can expect: to ensure customer satisfaction, the first step is to be clear about what good service looks like – if your customer’s expectations are wildly different from what you plan to deliver, you’re heading for danger. We decided to make things black and white by introducing a Service Excellence Guarantee which details exactly what customers can expect from the time it takes to change a lightbulb to the type of computer systems they will have installed.
Ensure standards are kept by benchmarking: even the best laid plans can go to waste. It’s important to make sure your company and staff are matching service level agreements through continued benchmarking. We’ve introduced benchmarking to our employee review system so that each member of staff is assessed against specific criteria. This not only ensures accountability but also motivates staff to be more customer focussed.
Test it: don’t just take it for granted that a solid customer service agreement will be enough to keep clients happy. Get third parties involved so you can gain independent feedback – the likes of mystery shoppers can be really useful in testing customer service. Equally, make sure staff are constantly asking for feedback from customers, both good and bad.
Be flexible: each customer’s needs are unique and it is important to quickly identify where you can add value and adapt your usual work methods to better fit theirs. This doesn’t mean bending over backwards to the point where a client becomes unprofitable, but it does mean remembering that there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach.
Communicate: whether by email, phone or face-to-face, customer interaction is vital to maintaining a positive relationship. It can be easy to turn your attention to new business prospects once a deal is signed and sealed. However, if a customer begins to feel neglected, they may begin to look elsewhere leaving you with an even bigger new business hole to fill.
Make it easy: while customers like a choice when purchasing goods and services, they do not like unnecessary hassle. Complicated product offerings, unclear procedures or copious amounts of admin could result in lost business to providers who make the process simpler.
No business will be able to deliver a perfect service to every customer, all the time – we are, after all, only human. But in the event that anything does go wrong and you are left facing an unhappy client, the best course of action is to deal with the problem as swiftly and as professionally as possible.
Written by Nick Gandy, Director of Business Centres at BE