If you work in any kind of business that supplies not just a product, such as a piece of technology, but also a service, such as the support for that technology, then serving your customer well is what will separate you from your competitors. Although being up to date on the latest solutions is probably one of the keys to giving your clients the support they need, so is being sensitive to their needs. But how do you create a business ethic that inspires everyone, not just the customer support staff, to think this way? It starts with values.
Value Within the Customer Context
Whether what you sell is a piece of software or design web sites or provide servers, your customer has to find value in the product to want it. With thousands of companies selling similar products shouting out for attention, customer service is the one thing that can truly differentiate you. In today’s world where service has become the by-word, having staff that put customer’s needs first will gain you the reputation of being welcoming. After all, who wants to install software if you are never sure you can get help if something goes wrong?
Having customer service staff that understands the technology is a great help. But given a choice between knowledgeable customer service staff who is difficult to engage and one who is helpful and will go the distance to find an answer for me, I know which one I would choose. Let me give you an example.
Providing Uninterrupted Business Service
A friend of mine has around twenty small Wordpress sites that earn her income. She needs them to handle fluctuations in traffic, and she needs her hosting company to be responsive. She started with a company that was cheaper, but had a clumsy way of handling customer needs. When a site went down and she had problems getting a fast responsive answer, she switched hosts based on recommendations from friends in similar businesses.
The new company has live support, and if they can’t find an answer to her problem, they will bring a tech on-line who can. They never give up, and are always proactive in finding a solution. She now has great loyalty to this company and recommends it to her friends who are getting into the same kind of web marketing that she does. Both companies offer the same kind of tools; it is how they offer customer service that is the difference.
Providing Cost Efficient Service
Giving your customer’s the best experience possible is wonderful. However, if the end result is a loss of cost efficiency, you won’t be around in five years to continue to give them that great service. This is where tools such as professional service automation (PSA) software can be crucial. By using the software to utilize the entire breadth of knowledge within the company, coordinate customer service with other departments and have supplier, customer and product knowledge readily available, your staff can quickly and efficiently give your customers the support they deserve.
But even the best tools aren’t enough if organization, training and constant measuring of service aren’t implemented as well. Making sure all staff is trained on the latest features and can use every aspect of it effortlessly means you are getting the best value from your customer support software. Measuring against known capabilities and continuous innovation for better results will give the maximum value for you and your clients.
Building Client Relationships
Your relationships with your clients are the most important part of this equation. When the entire company is engaged with creating the best possible experience for your customer, you both win. But if you think you can just sit back and bask in the reflected glory of your customer service people, think again. Here are some ways you can engage your entire company to help build those all important customer relations.
- Beyond building a vast customer list – Don’t just blast out those emails; segment your lists to allow you to address specific needs. If you speak their language and show you understand their industry pain, they have more reason to read that email in the first place.
- Encourage involvement – Reach out to clients, get them connected. Hold a special talk, create a contest. Reinforce the bonds you have now with your clients in ways meaningful to their business.
- Trust and Expectations- We know that trust is what keeps relationships going. If you make a promise, deliver it. This includes little things like telling a customer not only that you will get back to them, but when. Then do it.
- Be Authentic – Did you know that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos writes those letters on Amazon’s landing pages personally? He knows the value of being an authentic human being, no matter what the size of the company. Customers expect this from you, and if someone like Bezos can find the time, so can you.
- Reach out regularly – A monthly newsletter to your clients is the best tactic you can do to build those relationships. But only if what you send them has value to them. Don’t waste their time with fluff- they will recognize it when they see it. Give them true value in that monthly mailing and they will look forward to it. Recognize great customers, tell them about new products, and give them pragmatic advice.
Don’t just think about how you want better customer relationships, start planning for them today. Take these suggestions and see where they apply to your business. Make a service management plan, step by step on how you can implement them, and then do it. And as always- measure your success and when you see it, celebrate it.