*Appeared on Boston.com Global Business Hub
By Ellen Keiley
It is a challenging time for business. There is lots of competition for every opportunity, making it more difficult for businesses to drive financial success. Therefore, it is advantageous – and arguably necessary – for professionals and organizations to differentiate themselves from others. You have likely heard this before, but it is always good to be reminded that a strong focus on client service will set you apart. Clients will appreciate the attention to their needs, and if you do it right, you will build relationships, loyalty, and enjoy greater wallet and market share.
Clients expect a certain level of service from their service providers. If one can exceed those expectations, it is a win/win situation. There are numerous ways to do so.
Engage in “active” listening. Listening is an acquired skill. “Hearing” and “listening” are not synonymous. The expression “in one ear and out the other” is often a reality. Listening is an important skill that has to be continually developed. Active listening presents an opportunity to learn more about what is going on with a client’s business, and clients will appreciate the fact that you care about what they have to say and not just what you want to tell them. This will improve relationships with clients and present business development opportunities that otherwise may have been overlooked.
Seek client feedback. It does not take a formal survey to find out how a client feels about the service they are receiving. Call clients and ask them for feedback. This approach provides a personal touch, will bring any issues to the table, and will provide an opportunity to remedy issues before a client is lost. It is also an opportunity to learn what is being done well and what the client likes. At the very least, seeking feedback shows you care.
Don’t take relationships for granted. Make every effort to be responsive. That includes returning phone calls and responding to emails in addition to turning around work on a timely basis. Don’t assume it is okay to get back to the client at your convenience just because you have been working with them for years. That practice can result in a lost client. Lastly, if a client invites you to something, make every effort to attend.
Be client centric. It’s not about what your client can do for you – it’s about what you can do your client. Anyone that truly understands that will benefit. Focus on client-centric marketing and be proactive. The more value you can provide to clients, the happier they will be. Added value can be provided in numerous ways from seminars and newsletters to taking the time to learn about a client’s business and providing solutions to challenges. Clients appreciate receiving information that concerns their business, and it is a way to stay in touch and remain top of mind.
Get to know your clients as people. Learn what they enjoy inside and outside of work – even learn about their families and make a note of that information. Also, think how would you want to be treated if you were the client and what your expectations would be? One of the most valuable lessons I have learned is it is very beneficial to put yourself in the other person’s shoes, and that applies to any situation.
Take all organizational interaction into consideration. I know an attorney who has a requirement for the assistants he works with − they need to have the ability to “make the client feel cared for,” because he deeply cares about his clients’ satisfaction. He understands that a business is a total package. Anyone that has any interaction with a client has the ability to influence how the client feels. An organization’s leadership should pay attention to how members of the organization at every level interact with clients, because those interactions can have a very positive or a very negative effect. A little customer service training can go a long way.
Take the opportunity to really focus on providing excellent service and building relationships with one of the most important assets an organization has – existing clients. It doesn’t cost anything except time, and the rewards are well worth it.