The Skills You Need to Build Your Business
It’s sometimes said that customer service is dead. The experience of getting a satisfactory answer to an issue or question is more like going into battle for many customers, and I’m not sure why businesses don’t make it THE #1 priority.
Luckily, when you are in business for yourself, you have the ability to make that experience - and every experience - for your customer a positive one, even when it’s involving a problem.
It’s a practice to anticipate, meet and/or exceed your customers’ needs, wants and expectations. If you’ve developed the listening skills , and have operated as a consultative sales person, you’re on the right track. Here are a few more things to examine:
Identify, anticipate and understand your customer’s wants, needs and concerns
This is a step that should begin with your first meeting with them. In sales, people expect you to talk about your products or services, but really the focus should first and always be about the customer. What you have to offer them is a RESPONSE to their needs, making it much easier on you to create a solution for them through a sale. The only way to identify their needs is by keeping your mouth shut, really. Let them talk while you listen, take notes and really hear what’s at the heart of their needs.
Over time, then, your relationship with your customer is more of a partnership than a seller-buyer one. They will be more likely to come to you when they need something, and have more confidence in your ability to answer their questions. In addition, when something goes wrong, their relationship with you won’t mean that they are likely to fire you. Truly, every customer experiences some problems with the businesses they hire, but it’s how the business responds to that problem that sets them apart. Problems aren’t negatives, they are opportunities for you to show just how customer-focused you are.
Here too is your opportunity to advocate for your customer. They are busy taking care of a business, and your part is to make sure they don’t have more problems in working with you. So, when and where possible, be their voice in getting issues resolved, or troubleshooting to make sure issues don’t occur. It may not always put a feather in your cap because people rarely notice when things don’t go wrong, but over time the customer will realize that their experience is far better than others’ in similar situations, and they will have you to thank for it.
Follow through on requests, and do so to the customers satisfaction.
So, when you know what your customer needs, you need to do something with that information. If the issue is that they haven’t been able to find a certain product based on their operations, it’s your job to provide them with solutions that fit that need, and keep them informed on your progress. Especially after a sale, your continued presence in checking up on how they are using a product or service shows that you’re not just focused on making a buck.
When you have offered a solution, your job is still not over. Continued follow up to ask the customer how things are working out show them that it’s not just about you checking off a task to complete, but how it has worked out for THEM. It also allows you to learn more about your customer’s business needs and can deepen your relationship for them to collaborate with you on future purchases.
Respond with a sense of urgency
You’ve been given a list of needs (opportunities, really) from your customer. The time to act on those needs is NOW. You may have many clients, but the only one that matters to your customer is themselves. So, a request - any request - should be treated as a priority to give them a quick response, even if that response is to say you are working to solve their problem and provide an answer. No one likes being put off, or feeling like their email hasn’t even been opened. If it’s an urgent matter for your client, they may end up finding someone else without telling you, and you’ve lost their confidence, their trust, and likely future business
Be patient and courteous
Seems obvious, doesn’t it? Treat people well, especially when they seem demanding or frustrated. Listen beyond their words, and stay focused on the solution to their concerns. Even when you have had a long day of being inundated with requests, problems or complaints, your attitude should be positive, willing and ready to help. Often it’s not you that they’re stressed out about, and giving them the best of you will change their own attitude. I believe in that saying that it doesn’t matter who you are or what you do, what people remember is how you made them feel. Make sure what people remember about you is your kindness and patience, even in stressful situations.
Go the extra mile
Sometimes consistency in serving a customer is fine, but it can lead you to get too comfortable. Every contact you have with your customer should leave them with a “Wow, they really delivered!” moment. Ask how else you can help, rather that resolving an issue and leaving it at that.
The chief complaint about doctors these days is that people feel like they don’t have enough time with their doctor, and if they have questions, it seems like the doctor already has one foot out of the waiting room door. Don’t let that be your customer’s experience. Stay a while. Ask questions to see if there is any way to exceed their expectations. Even better, if you know there is a way to exceed their expectations, do it without them asking you. It will make their experience positive and memorable.
Take professional risks for the sake of customer’s needs
I want to be clear here. I’m not saying to break laws or even bend them. However, when a situation may require you to stretch your limits and take you into uncharted territory for the sake of serving your customer, take the risk of failure to achieve the result. It may be as simple as giving up one sale to provide the time and attention to a client that you feel offers a better and longer term relationship, but it is usually worth it. As you get to know all of your customers, that risk may be easier to take as you can more easily foresee the results of that risk.
All of these skills lead to building relationships. Your customer should never be a dollar sign, a sale to be made. They are people like you, looking to succeed, and you have the unique opportunity to help them do that. People know when you are authentic, caring and focused on their needs and not your own. No marriage survives without that type of partnership, and no business relationship will either. Customer service really is that ideal you strive for every day, and it sets the top two priorities for your business in its name: the customer is always first and the service they receive should always be your best.