How to Keep Client Relationships Flourishing

May 28, 2015 | Uncategorized

Six weeks ago, my husband and I moved overseas with nothing but six suitcases. Despite years of planning, we knew we’d be in for a wild ride as we tried to establish ourselves in a brand-new setting.

Hoping to save a little cash, we did most of our household shopping at local charity shops. One place quickly became our favorite. Why? Sure, it supports a good cause and offers great prices on furniture. But do you know what keeps us coming back? Customer service.

Every time we walked in we received a friendly greeting (which is not typical in this culture). The second time we visited, employees remembered where we moved from, what we’d bought previously, and that we’re still getting to know the area.

It’s interesting to see just how important client relationships are in business—across all industries and even the world. Customer service goes far beyond fielding angry phone calls or replying to dozens of questions. It’s hardly ever one-and-done.

In recent weeks, I’ve had opportunities to talk about client relationships with professionals in various careers. Today, I’d like to share their tips with you so that you can compare them to your own company’s practices—and hopefully learn a thing or two. 

Hire well and train with vigilance. “Customer service is an area in which companies can truly differentiate themselves from their competitors,” says Caleb Roth, founder of Empty Shelves Warsaw and seller of more than 80,000 books. “As companies scale up, they tend to look for ways to cut costs and increase profitability. An easy way to do this is to outsource customer service to an automated (or oftentimes offshore) system. Although this method does save a few bucks, it can aggravate the customer, which can harm the brand. Even worse, poor customer service can be the culprit behind losing a customer altogether!”

Roth continues, “Hire quality people, train them on the basics, and then allow them to treat your customers like people. Give them flexibility in how they respond to problems, and allow them to be creative. Your customers will notice a difference, and your sales will ultimately be higher in the long run.”

Talk about what’s important to them. “Most of my business customers love to talk about themselves and their successes,” says Ryan Deitle, AT&T Sales Consultant. “I ask a lot of questions centered around how they got started and how long they’ve been doing it. Listening is the key. I sell more just by listening to people. The interaction should be 80% the customer talking and only 20% me—and most of that 20% is asking questions.”

Go the extra mile—and beyond first impressions. Elly Barrow, Assistant Director of the Allen County Bowen Center, says “Great customer service goes the extra mile for the customer and does not require certain lingo or a ‘magic word’ to find the answer. The individual providing the service should listen so well that he/she knows what the client is looking for and provides it with timeliness, kindness, and a can-do attitude. It does not mean the customer is always right. It means you validate whatever part of his/her message—no matter how small or isolated—that was right. Often there is a hidden message, emotion, or concern, that is buried under an offputting presentation. As a professional, you take on the responsibility of looking past presentation and really meeting the need of the client.”

Keep things simple, and be available. “We strive to provide easy access and service that has a comfortable feel, since most people contact us in a frustrating time of need,” says Philip Godshall, owner of Pennsylvania-based Godshall Insurance Agency. “We sometimes have clients buy insurance online elsewhere, but then return because they want to deal with a real person in time of need. We always try to provide a family type of insurance culture by being available to talk and having a knowledge of what they’re going through.”

Hold high standards. “You should always do the right thing for your customer, simply because it is the right thing to do,” says Roth. “Will sales benefit in the long term because of that philosophy? Most likely. But even if they didn’t, it’s still the business philosophy that I will choose to adopt…It’s a simple process, really—treat others as you would want to be treated!”

How does this advice compare to your customer service principles? Share your thoughts in a comment below.

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