Relationship Building Through Excellent Customer Service
As a small business owner, you know it is far easier to keep a client than to continue to hunt for new ones. So then, keeping your clients happy is paramount to the long-term success of your business. Key to relationship building is providing a dependable customer service strategy.
The UPS Store’s network of franchisees are, themselves, small business owners who have vast experience in the DOs and DON’Ts of client relationship building. Here are seven tips from our team on providing excellent customer service.
1. Develop a Relationship Based On Trust
If you want a long-term relationship with a client, you need to establish a relationship based on trust. Every new business relationship starts with ‘some’ trust – after all, the client trusted you enough to start doing business with you. Once you have the business, the challenge becomes keeping that trust over the long term and that means fostering the relationship with your client. Treating your customers with integrity, professionalism and dedication at every opportunity is a good way for you to earn and keep your customer’s trust.
2. I Know You Can Hear Me, But Are You Listening?
Many of us who are in the business of sales have a pre-rehearsed “pitch” and templated presentation that we rely on. Perhaps too heavily. Consider this: are you talking at your audience or with your audience? If you’re just rhyming off your sales pitch to your prospects – talking “at” them – instead of engaging them in a two-way discussion on how your company can meet their needs, you might be missing key information that can help you close this client. Try opening your sales pitch with an informal series of questions that leads your client to your solution.Play the role of super-sleuth. Respond to his or her questions with secondary questions and paraphrase back to show that you truly understand your clients’ problems and that you are committed to providing a customized solution to his needs.
3. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate: But How?
A skill that is closely related to listening is the art of communication. Particularly if you have active projects, you will need to be in regular contact with your customer to discuss the progress of these projects. Many of us fall into the trap of using email as our own chosen main form of communication out of convenience. Is that your client’s preferred method too? Why not ask a client what their preference is and build your communications around their preferences? They will appreciate your attention to these kinds of details.
And, if you don’t have any current projects with a client, find a reason to “check in” – after all, out of sight is out of mind. Use the client’s birthday or other dates important to him or her as a reason to touch base. Make a point of sharing some interesting articles that might be beneficial to your client’s business. Build a communication plan for these clients to ensure that you are staying top of mind. Honing your communication skills are an excellent way to build and grow your client relationships and to increase your opportunity for future sales.
4. Manage Expectations
Managing your client’s expectations is key to keeping that relationship strong. Keep your customers aware of the current status of all projects.Let them know if any issues arise that could impact project delivery or budget. Be fair. Be honest. Keep in mind that pushing back on unrealistic expectations is okay – as long as it is done tactfully and with a compromise, and a solution, in mind.
5. Under Promise and Over Deliver
So cliché, but this is a motto that every small business owner should live by. Nothing builds trust with a client faster than delighting him or her with an early delivery date on a project, or a project that came in under-budget. Help yourself on some of those larger projects by building in buffers. Throw in a few added-value hours. Or give him or her a report that he or she was not expecting.Under promising and over delivering shows your client you care about him or her personally as well as for the success of his business.
6. Be Transparent When Things Go Awry
Occasionally, things fall off the rails or as we day at The UPS Store “ship happens.” Missed delivery dates or mistakes to the order happen to us all. How you handle the situation that will make or break your opportunity to work with this customer again. What your mother said is true – honesty is the best policy. Tell your customer the situation and how you propose to fix it. And, always stay committed to correct the problem as fast as possible.
7. The Customer is Always Right
Everyone has their own agenda, and sometimes you and your customer will have different points-of-view.Try to feel your customer out for their appetite for negotiating a mutually beneficial solution. However, there will be times when you just have to be accommodating in order to keep the business. Keep your cool. Stay professional. Keep smiling.
Customer service is more than simply dealing with the occasional negative issue. It’s what you do every day to meet and exceed your customer’s needs. Because a satisfied customer is more likely to be a repeat customer. And that’s good for business.