Customer Services: Keep Your Clients

Costumer service showing clients that you depend on them and value them for your business. General Customer services and relations tips as well as what your staff should do when faced with an angry client.

The first step for any business wanting to be successful whether it be a restaurant, garden service or programming company is to make sure that your customer service levels are high. You can gain new customers but to keep them coming back for more, is what will be the difference to your business and the next one down the road. There are different companies offering the same product, but if you treat your customers the way they should be treated then they won't have any reason to try the next man two blocks down, they will be so pleased with your service they will stay with you forever. There is an old saying that "˜good service will keep one customer, but bad service will lose you ten', and it's frighteningly accurate. Word of mouth is still the best advertiser, and can be the easiest way for a bad experience to get around. Here are some tips to keeping your customers loyal.

Your relationship with your client, like any relationship, will begin with the first contact. Whether that is by advertising, phone, in person or by mail it is vital to make a good first impression. If the first contact is by phone, then make sure the operator is well spoken and clear. There is nothing worse than hearing someone talk too fast, or slur their words, this can colour the impression of the entire company. If you are meeting the client in person, it goes without saying that your appearance must be neat and tidy at all times. If you are a woman then ensure your skirt isn't too short or your blouse too low as that can give the impression that the company is frivolous and not to be taken entirely seriously. If you are averse to wearing make up, that isn't a problem, just make sure that hair is neat and not hanging over your face. The same goes for men, if you have long hair then tie it back, neatly. Not in your ten year olds neon pink ribbon. Smile as it exudes confidence, and for the first few minutes a little small talk will set the client at ease. Ask if they found the place easily or tell them how much you have been looking forward to getting together with them. If the first contact is by mail, then check and double-check the spelling and grammar on the mail. I have been known to never contact a company purely because their grammar was horrendous and their spelling that of an illiterate six year old. Also ensure it is addressed to the right person, with the right title. Calling her Mrs. James Donaldson will really annoy her if she is in fact Miss Camilla Paglia. Make sure the letter is concise and laid out neatly and professionally.

It will happen that once you have got the client and they are purchasing from you (be it a service, time or a product), one day they will have a complaint. This always happens. Generally right after the first order. I believe there are three rules to effective customer service. Listen. Clarify. Deliver.

When they initially want to purchase from you, listen to what they say. Give them what they want not what you think they may want or need. If they think a smaller or cheaper version will do then give them that but politely express your misgivings. If they call to complain, then listen when they tell you who they are, and always address them by their name throughout the conversation, as this helps build rapport. Listen to what their complaint is, and whether or not you believe the complaint is valid, continue to listen. Affirm what they are saying to show you are listening. The occasional "˜really?' or "˜I do apologize about that Mr. Sanders' will go a long way to easing their fears that you are discarding what they say as they say it.

Clarify what they have just said, and the action that they are requesting. Example:

"Mr. Sanders I understand you are very angry that your popcorn maker is broken, and that you want us to replace it. Lets see what we can do for you." Let them know you have been listening to the tirade of the last few minutes, and try and offer a solution to the client.

Deliver the goods. This does not mean that you get in your car and drop the goods when they are ordered. It just means don't make promises you can't keep. If the client insists on getting something two days before you can possibly send it to him, then rather decline the sale, than make a promise that you know can't be fulfilled. If you are firm about something and deliver on time then your client will come back to you, as you didn't let him down. If you say you have checked something, and in fact you got the college dropout who temps with you to check it, it's your name on the line, if the dropout doesn't bother to check and the information/goods/etc are faulty then you are the one who will look stupid and will get a bad name. Take responsibility for getting something done and do it.

A few general things that are all indications of a company who knows how important they, as clients, are for their well-being.

Do Follow Ups. Call the client and check that they received their goods and that everything is in good order. Ask if they have used the item yet and if they are happy with it.

Ask questions when they initially make an enquiry. For example: if you are selling lighting ask what kind of environment it is for, and what price range they are looking at. To offer the client the best solution you have to be informed.

Return messages. All of the time, whether they are fax, email or phone messages always get back to the customer, within a few hours. A maximum of two hours is acceptable, and even if you call them back and tell them you are very busy and can you call them to discuss their issue at four pm this afternoon. At least let the client know you haven't discarded them as unimportant.

I have found that being honest with my clients has kept me more clients than it has lost me. If you know you can't get a printer to them on time, tell them. If you know a certain item you sell has been known to breakdown, and they need it for heart surgery then rather tell them. They will be open to any other suggestion you make after that as they learn to trust you. They think you will add value to their business even if you don't profit from it.

Always remember: your client has options and he can always go to the next guy who is promising better service than you.

© High Speed Ventures 2011