Customer Service: The devil in the detail.
Read time 5 minutes
Customer service has a varying scope depending on the type of business you are running. Some businesses are a one shot deal where your product or service may be delivered once and then never again to the same customer. Of course, that notwithstanding, one customer can be the seed for many more in subsequent positive recommendations. Some businesses can generate long term multiple repeat purchases from the same customer or upsold spin offs which your company may be able to provide. There are always numerous opportunities to deliver good customer service. Good customer service comes from attention to detail and the ability to attend to detail arises from being attentive to the customer, always.
Customer service is a quality many consumers will value at least as highly as the product or service they are purchasing and whilst it pervades our business endeavours from the start to finish of any relationship, no matter what business you run, there is always a start point for customer service. That point is at the first enquiry.
What should attention look like at that first enquiry?
- Respond to the enquiry as quickly as you can: Many people want instant connection and unless you have a devoted front of house, virtual or physical, you probably don’t get to make that new connection at the exact moment someone calls or emails you with their enquiry. The next best thing you can do is to respond in the shortest time interval you are able. It will reinforce the idea that your potential customer is important enough for you to prioritise them and, while your business is still fresh in their mind, you are presenting yourself back to them through your initial response.
- If you can’t respond quickly with enough resource to engage with their enquiry, respond with a holding message: This will make your connection and gives you the opportunity to propose a timescale of when you can connect with your customer to fully explore their needs.
- Once you make an arrangement do not break it: Reneging on arrangements is a fast way to annoy a customer during the critical first impression building phase. If you made the arrangement you must ensure you could keep to it, barring an act of God.
- When you do respond, build rapport quickly by introducing yourself in a friendly manner and with a comment of thanks for the initial enquiry: It softens your personality and makes you humble straight out of the blocks. This can be particularly relevant in the building and home improvement trades. Approaching service providers a customer doesn’t already know can take a lot of courage and create unwanted stress. This first call is your chance to eliminate that stress and make all subsequent contact something to be anticipated rather than feared.
- Be very specific to understand what your customer needs and wants.: Understanding will come from listening. Depending on the nature of your business, it may be your responsibility to ask cogent questions so you tease out a detailed brief from which to build your remit, but listen to every word of their response to those questions.
- Pay attention to the bits in between: If you’ve done a good job of point 4. your customer may share far more information than you need to fulfil the technical content of your transaction. Personal detail, like why they can’t make an appointment you initially offer or the means by which they came to a knowledge of your business or how a previous experience with one of your competitors has affected them or the periphery around their motivation to potentially engage you is all “their stuff” and taking an attentive interest in their stuff demonstrates how important they are in your hierarchy. Make relevant note of these peripheral details on a client relationship management sheet, or your diary or some other record to act as an aide memoir in anticipation of your next conversation with the customer. Later reference to a prior conversation, particularly if it was not relevant to the business you are conducting, is a powerful tool to reassure your customer that they are your priority when you are in communication with them. This is a valuable time investment and it can be at least as powerful as the quality of the actual product or service you deliver. If you make this “attention to the human” a cornerstone of all your dealings, it has the power to generate positive referral and massive leverage for subsequent leads and/or repeat business.
What happens if you don’t pay appropriate attention?
- If you don’t connect quickly, the potential customer may find another provider. They may quickly start to discredit your professionalism and service levels. They may dub you indifferent or just not interested in them.
- At the start of a new relationship, trust hasn’t been earned and, to your potential customer, you are no better than any of your competitors. If you make an arrangement then break it without a profoundly good reason you may break that fragile bond. The effect of being unreliable is profound even in just one instance at this early stage of your relationship.
- At your response to initial enquiry you are flooding your potential client with new information. Notwithstanding the technical exchange, you are impressing them through your choice of words and your verbal conduct. The qualities you convey through your intonation can be humility, friendship, compassion, empathy, respectful regard. Inattention or even just lack of engagement beyond the technical needs of the enquiry can be a proxy for indifference and thus this conversation can be an opportunity to un-impress if squandered through lack of attention.
- If you are not listening and asking the right questions you have a better chance of under-performing to meet your customer’s needs. This could be through a mis-specification, a lesser service or possibly not winning a job you may otherwise have. Even if you do complete business with the new customer, if you have given less than you could through lack of attention then you have a less powerful connection with your new customer and the life of that relationship and its productivity for your business could be substantially diminished.
It’s a fairly well acknowledged fact that people do business with people, not businesses. That is particularly true with small businesses where the standards setting /verification and CRM are often performed by the business owner directly. Good relationship management is another phrase for good relations and good relations come from giving. Giving attention, giving care and thought to a relationship with a customer takes endeavour and motivation but if people do business with people then it is possibly one of the most important facets of what we do in business. The customer is not always right but they are always the most important part of a transaction and our attention to detail from the very start helps ensure we echo that sentiment with action.
Happy Banana Drive Cleaning and Happy Banana Tree Services are divisions of Happy Banana Ltd. Service with a genuine smile from a company with the coveted “FFF” (Friendliest in Far Forest)rating.