In these highly competitive times, one way of standing out from the crowd is to provide unforgettable service. Adam Joseph reveals some key ways to differentiate your customer service.
Providing superior levels of customer service is a critical differentiator for any organization that wants to build great client relationships, have improved retention rates and identify new business opportunities.
No matter what role, company or industry you work in, providing great customer service should be central to your job.
Following these ten core principles will help you turn your personal levels of customer service into a real competitive differentiator.
1. Demonstrate Your Expertise
You need to know your own solutions inside out and never stop your thirst for learning. One of the quickest ways of building credibility with a customer is by being able to confidently demonstrate the value of your solution and answer their questions without continually having to say “I will get back to you on that”. Conversely, never try and guess answers (even if you are under pressure to do so) as this will inevitably backfire and you will lose any credibility that you have built up.
2. Know Your Customer
To help ensure that your clients achieve maximum ROI (return on investment) from using your solutions it is imperative that you know their businesses and the market-place in which they operate. Once that is achieved, understand where your solutions fit into the grand scheme of their organization. It is also vital to understand the metrics by which they will determine if they are deriving value (e.g. speed up internal processes, win more deals, save costs, etc.)
If your customers have been with you a long time don’t assume that your past knowledge of their businesses is still true today. Their people, products, ownership, corporate structure and culture may be completely different but you could still be treating them like the company they used to be. Don’t be afraid to ask basic questions to confirm your understanding and ensure that you regularly review this.
3. Being Proactive
You can’t be on the back-foot when it comes to delivering great customer service. Don’t wait for issues or misconceptions about your solutions to arise – predict them and put measures in place to ensure they never happen in the first place. Always look for opportunities where you know your solutions can make a real difference. For example, just by reading the latest news on a company can help you identify key areas where you can help drive a client’s ROI.
4. Embrace Your Mistakes
Fact – we are all human and we all make mistakes. In my experience, I have learnt far more valuable lessons from my mistakes than my successes. The key is to embrace and learn from your mistakes rather than try to hide them and never, ever repeat them! Customers do understand that mistakes will happen; they will judge you on how you deal with them.
5. Take Ownership
Many customers will tell you there is nothing worse than being pushed around from pillar to post or their enquiry falling into a “black hole” when they are trying to get a question answered or an issue resolved. Take ownership and be the central point of contact for your customer. Not only will your customer appreciate having to deal with just one person but it is a great way to help build trust, credibility and create long-standing relationships.
6. Balance Your Communication
It is vital that you strike the right balance on how you communicate with customers whether it is via email, phone, web-meeting or in-person. Email can be a great medium for sending some useful information (e.g. a new enhancement or to provide a status update) to a large audience or keeping a record of the written dialogue between yourself and your key contacts but it is impossible to build long-standing business relationships on email alone.
Pick up the phone so they get to know your voice and where possible visit them personally. By doing this, you will quickly understand their personal drivers, motivation, personality and their perception on your current level of service.
7. Go the Extra Mile!
Every customer interaction is an opportunity to be seized upon and gives you the ability to show how seriously you (and your organization) take the whole ethos of customer service. If your customers have a question, don’t just answer it; take the time to understand why they are asking it and what else they might need answered.
If you need to arrange a follow-up action make sure you set reasonable expectations on next steps and do your utmost to meet it (at the very least) or even better – beat it! If the unexpected happens, ensure that your customer is kept in the loop and even after their initial query has been resolved schedule some time in your diary in the future to follow up. You will be amazed by the difference it makes!
8. Empower Your Customer
If you want your customers to depend on your solutions then they are going to have to acquire the knowledge, skills and expertise on how to use them. Training is a vital component of this however a badly run session will leave behind a poor general perception of your company and will hamper adoption and take-up of your solutions from the beginning.
The best training sessions I have been involved with have shared two common ingredients – relevance and interactivity. Relevance is vital as everything that is shown needs to pass the “so what” test (i.e. how will this help me be more successful in my job). It will also ensure that your session only lasts as long as it is absolutely necessary and your audience leave with the key points that they can take away.
Interactivity is equally as important; you need to engage with your audience and learn/adapt to what they are telling you rather than carry on blindly down a pre-determined path.
9. Having a Commercial Mindset (No Matter What Your Role)
Many non-business development staff treats “Sales” as a dirty word – it isn’t! Unless you work in the public sector or a charity, we are all in the business of making the companies that we work for more profitable and everyone in an organization (from back office to front office) play a massive part in whether this is achieved or not.
As stated previously, “every customer interaction is an opportunity to be seized upon” and never has this been truer when it comes to identifying new business opportunities. By building a great customer service led relationship, you are more likely to be told of opportunities that they might not tell their Sales Rep directly.
Qualifying these types of opportunities and passing them on to your Sales colleagues is one of the best methods for growing your existing relationships. This is a true “win win” – not only does your customer derive better value from your services but the increase in spend will also fuel your organization’s growth.
10. Treat the Company Like It Is Your Own
When I look at the common traits of my colleagues who exemplify true customer service, one thing stands out above all else – they are passionate about the company they work for and the clients they serve. When you treat your company like you are the CEO, the above principles do not need to be put up on a board or taught in a meeting room – it just comes naturally.
Customers quickly pick up if the person they are dealing with doesn’t care about them or their business. Conversely, hearing someone who genuinely is interested and wants to assist them in every way possible can only help foster long-term relationships, continued growth and business success.
About the Author
Adam Joseph joined OneSource in 2003 as a Customer Services Consultant and has since been promoted to initially lead the UK and then the entire global Client Services Team. Adam is responsible for the successful direction and implementation of the Customer Services strategy and management of the Global Support team.