Customer service, especially for start-up businesses, is a critical component of success. You can have great employees, raise generous amounts of capital, and possess the best executive team, but if you fail to create a culture of exceptional client care, you will probably experience diminished results. As business owners it is important we create customer oriented companies. Unless you're the government tax department, or the only store in a one store town, you need to give this area a lot of care and attention.
One of the best ways to learn about customer service strategies is to hear how other successful business owners have approached this subject. I recently surveyed a number of experienced business owners to find out their top customer service and client care tips:
Seek to Understand the Client’s Needs - Tim Stanfield - Realtor - Kelowna B.C.
I am fortunate to have had a long career in Real Estate. In part, this is due to a fundamental business practice that seems to resonate with my clients, which in turn generates much appreciated referrals to other clients. This practice is to act as more of a Consultant than a Salesperson. My role is to understand my client’s needs, to understand the local market, and to provide information and advice (both good and bad) which in turn helps my client make informed decisions. I don’t see my role as “selling” someone a home or property, I see it as providing an informed, experienced, ethical, and professional service.
I’m finding over the past few years that businesses fail to respond quickly to their client’s inquiries and requests. Instead of acknowledging they’ve received our phone call, email, or text they wait days before responding. My advice as a business owner is when someone sends you an email, text, or leaves a voice message, even if you don’t have an answer to it right away, at the very least acknowledge in some way that you’ve received it. Make sure you tell them you’ll get back with an answer as soon as possible. When you don’t quickly respond you basically tell your client you don’t care about them and their business is not important to you.
Don’t’ Over Promise - David Hennes – Great Little Moving Company - Kelowna B.C.
“Don’t over-promise and under-deliver”. Promising the world may seem like a great thing to achieve customer acquisitions but in the end will only leave you with a sour taste and feeling like a lemon! For start up companies this will be a journey but the more you know exactly what you do, how you do it, and why you do it, the more success you will have. Over time these questions will be answered, and you will be able to deliver what you promise and look rather fantastic at the same time.
Listen to Your Clients - Matthew Strong – Chance Consulting Group - B.C. & Alberta
Customer service, better yet, excellent customer service, is a constantly evolving, multifaceted aspect of business. I believe excellence in customer service can be boiled down to a few key skills/competencies, with the most vital being active listening. Being a strong active listener means successfully conveying to your customer that they have your full attention. It means listening to what is being explicitly said while also being attentive to what your customer may not be outright saying. By continually developing better active listening skills you will avoid unnecessary misunderstandings. Simultaneously you’ll improve your ability to address a customer's needs by adapting your communication of a solution, or explanation, in a manner that they can easily digest and understand.
Don’t Take Client Complaints Personally - Kenton Reimer – Reimer Collective
Over the past few years, I’ve observed one of my clients encounter a frustrating relationship with a financial institution. The upper management in this institution appeared to take criticisms and complaints to heart, and often reacted out of emotion rather than professionalism.
I think this is a lesson for all business owners. It can be quite easy to blur the lines between our business and our own lives. Because of this, we may take complaints too personally. It’s important we remain friendly and professional at all times. Never let a complaint get to a place of conflict. Be the bigger person and work to find a solution even if you are in the right. If we let our emotions drive our responses we may come across spiteful or vindictive. Always keep in mind that our attitudes can negatively impact future relations with our clients.