Did your business or professional practice struggle to make your revenue budget last year? Is there anything that you could have done better and what sort of changes did you make for 2011? For many entrepreneurs one of the most effective changes they can make is to start practicing awesome customer service and it doesn’t cost any money.
What is Awesome Customer Service
Awesome customer service is made up of three things; a can do attitude, client oriented problem resolution procedures and client/customer appreciation in that order of importance. Without the right attitude toward customer service problem resolution cannot be done effectively and clients will see through half hearted or phony efforts of appreciation for their business,
Let us take a look at these one at a time and then see how they can help revenue generation.
Having the Right Entrepreneur Attitude
Having the right attitude starts with recognizing that you would not be in business without clients and the world owes you nothing. This is more important than business and professional practice owners you might think. Have you ever been to a store, professional practice (Doctor, CPA, Attorney etc.), or service company (payroll, recruiter etc.) only to feel like you have been treated as a without respect?
Everyone wants to feel special, know that they are listened to and that the business or professional practice understands their needs as well as having their customer’s best interest in mind. So the first step in improving your revenues for 2011 is making sure that each and every day you and your staff understand client management in that clients have a choice of where to spend their money regardless of how long they have been a customer or your qualifications or even reputation.
Since every business is unique, so there is not just one way to adjust owner and staff attitudes. Unfortunately, a lot of businesses do not see a problem because either their egos are blinding them or they do not perceive a problem. One very effective way to find out what your clients think of your business is to do a customer satisfaction survey.
The best survey that I have ever seen was done by one of my previous employers and was just 5 simple questions where customers circled a number and returned it postage free. There was a comment section but the idea is for the client to spend no more than 30 seconds and provide their instinctive response.
The survey was on a postcard and should be given to every client (one per client) that walks in the door just before they leave. Survey cards can also be sent via the mail to both current and former clients. Survey cards should not contain the customer’s name (although they can be bar coded for identification).
Now here is the best part. You are not looking for high fives and pats on the back, these are nice but it is not what you need to see. You are looking for any card that is returned with a ranking of average, poor or horrible. If more than 5 % of the cards returned have this marking, your business or professional practice has a problem because this is where you will lose customers and their friends.
Poor Problem Resolution Equals Lost Revenue
Now that you know what your customers think of you behind your back, it is time to understand the reasons clients do not make purchases, return for additional business or refer your business. The top three reasons for lost clients are:
- Failure to make a genuine attempt at problem resolution.
- Failure to resolve issues in a way that makes then think they you have listened to them.
- Failure to resolve the issue.
No client should ever be allowed to walk away unhappy or dissatisfied with your service. The cost of a new sale is anywhere from 5-10 times the cost of retaining a customer. So that a delivery charge in question, a dried burger or the portion of the bill for professional services in dispute are 100% complete non-issues. Make the credit adjustment!
The second most important part of problem resolution is making sure that you and your staff are trained in problem resolution procedures. There are several methods or steps plans that I have run across over the years that can be effective. The parts they all have in common include:
- Listening to the issue without interrupting.
- Not taking a defensive position.
- Showing empathy for the customer (regret they are having a problem).
- Asking how the customer would like to see the issue resolved.
- Proposing a solution.
- Agreeing on a solution.
- Keeping your commitment to the client.
- Exceeding customers expectations.
- Having the boss/owner following up with the client days or weeks afterward and letting them know you appreciate their business.
- Documenting the problem for future reference and training.
The value of having the owner or proprietor involved is huge. When the boss is involved people feel like they have made a significant accomplishment and satisfaction levels skyrocket. It also demonstrates to staff that customers are the reason they have a job. Attitudes will change very quickly when this occurs.
Why Client Appreciation Increases Revenue
Client appreciation works best when customers that are indifferent to using your service or product. For example, if your survey indicates a good rating but very few outstanding marks, then some extra client appreciation might keep them around or encourage them to refer your business.
The most important part of showing client appreciation is being genuine. Greeting someone as they walk in the door or at the counter with a pained smile on your face does not fool anyone. Customers want a good experience when they have interaction with owners and staff. Some helpful ideas include:
- Saying hello with a smile.
- Thanking them for coming in.
- Recognizing they think their time is as important as your time.
- Always asking if there is anything else you can do for them even if you do not actually want to hear the answer because you have clients waiting etc.
- Do not confuse customer appreciation with customer rewards programs. Customer appreciation earns consumer loyalty, customer rewards buys it at a monetary cost.
The objective is to make the customer experience outstanding so that not only will the client return but will also recommend your business or professional practice. The secret and challenge is making sure that all staff have a positive attitude. The only guarantee anyone can make is that if the business owner does not have a positive attitude toward customer service then the rest of the organization will NOT be able to offer awesome customer service.
How Does Awesome Customer Service Increase Revenue?
Awesome customer service enables all businesses to increase their client retention, obtain more referrals and get more revenue per client. The cost of awesome customer service is close to nothing. The cost of poor customer service is an empty store, gaps in client scheduling and a lack of customer orders.
We can all tell stories of businesses we no longer do business with or professionals we would recommend. Which side of the story do you want your business or professional practice management to be on?
Tell us what customer service changes you made for 2011? If you liked this article you may also enjoy reading: