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Last week I talked to a friend of mine. She had a new job at a local department store. Her new job title is “Service Specialist”. This resonates a lot for me. The way you give service to your client will determine if they will hire you, return or promote you to their network. Nothing beats a good mouth of word to get more business.
Good customer care and client service means a great deal for me. It is in line with my mission in life: to help people help themselves.
The creditcard company
I recently cancelled my credit card because I wanted to change my address and this was not possible on the website. Therefore, had to call a number. Which I did. But on Saturday this company has no customer service. I was disappointed and I don’t know a lot of banks who do not have a customer service on the weekend. Then I found a link on the website to cancel my membership. It was easier to cancel than to change my address! And I’ve been with this bank for almost 17 years! A classic example of bad customer service.
The shoe company
On the other hand there’s Zappos. This is an American company who sells shoes and clothing online. It is known for its great customer service. Every employee of this company – even upper management and the CEO – has to work in the customer service department for a reoccurring period. The goal is to stay in connected with the customer. They are also known for sending a personal and written notes to customers when an issue has been resolved. Some companies here in the Netherlands like Bol.com are doing this as well. Most customer service centers of companies are in the basement or in an separate building. At Zappos, customer service is on the top floor. That’s a great service mindset!
What is Service?
For me it’s to get extra (personalized) attention. For someone else it might mean to get a great deal or a 100-day money back guarantee without questions asked when returning a product. Everybody has their own definition for service.
In the book Uplifting Service, Ron Kaufmann gives a good definition for service:
Service is taking action to create some value for someone else.
Of course you’ll need an excellent product and a delivery system, according to Kaufmann. But then comes the service mindset and the relationship with the customer as well.
Why? Because your clients become your ambassadors and will promote your business in their network. Kaufmann gives an excellent example in this short video:
What can you do to increase your service mindset?
In this article I am giving you some of my favorite ways to provide excellent service to clients. This can also be for clients within your company – your colleagues.
I tend to start right away. Perhaps you recognize this as well. A client comes with a project and you know right away how to tackle it. It is similar to a previous project and you know what to do, you want to show your enthusiasm, your expertise. It is better to listen first to have all the requirements first. Chances are that the project is not at all like the other with complete different specifications. First, you’ll make a fool out of yourself by having to come back for additional questions or a different approach (offer) to the project which will take more time or money. So, give service by listening and asking good questions.
Always deliver a product. Even if this is a minimum viable one. Manage expectations of the client on when and what will be delivered. Sometimes it takes time to get new data (from others or from calculations). Let the client know about this. Do this not only in the contract phase but also during the project phase. Communication with your client is always important. I remember being extremely nervous to give bad news to a client. Of course he was not happy, but he was able to make sure that he had an alternative to successfully complete his project. If I would have informed him in a later stage, he would not be able to do that or to a higher cost.
But, this also means that the quality of your work (the project) should not be infected by the budget. You can’t perform less because often safety issues are at stake. So, be honest, be your best and take action.
It means that you deliver on promises as well. I once followed a course and they promised to call me back to find out how I was doing on implementing what I’d learned. I never got that call (yet). This is a reason for me not to buy from that company again.
Overdeliver & surprise
On the other hand: I am thinking of following a new course. Normally you take the training and that’s it. This particular course gives you the possibility to follow the course again for free, as long as you like! And this is not a course to be followed online. It’s live, with real trainers and instructors!
Over delivery can also mean that you finish your project ahead of time, at a lower cost or that you add something extra to surprise the client. This can be an extra idea (backed up by a calculation) for the project to become a greater success.
I love surprises, especially the nice ones you don’t expect. When you’ve a new client or a project, you’ll most likely confirm the project with a formal letter or an email. Why not send a box with a cake or balloons to your new client? Add a note that you’re excited to start working with them (and confirm the contract). Chances are that colleagues of your client will congratulate them with their birthday. Imagine how surprised they in turn will be to hear that this is not the case, but that this gift was from a new service provider. It’s about impressing the clients by creating a wow effect.
Remove fine print
Sometimes I work with service providers and they send me 2 pages of conditions (the fine print). What or who are trying to hide from? Dissatisfied customers? Their own (faulty) management system? It would be better to do something to prevent angry customers and this means to streamline your business procedures so that everybody is aligned. This means clear communication between the departments. Perhaps you can also simplify your conditions by removing some of the fine print and adding something like a money back guarantee like at Zappos.
Stay in touch
As I’ve mentioned before, communication is very important. I remember making countless of consultancy reports based on the results of fieldwork and my calculations. Then I would send out the invoice and that was it. Actually, I missed 2 opportunities (read here on how to deal with them). One was to surprise by adding a personal note on the invoice to wish them all the best or thanking them for the work. Another can be to stay in touch with the client. Why not call to ask if the client has some questions about the report? You can also inform about the progress of the project. Marketing wise this is also a very good idea. And don’t do this to follow a management procedure but do it more often than the procedure demands. Chances are that this contact will be appreciated. This will undoubtedly result in more value and business.
I challenge you to provide an excellent service to your clients for the upcoming week.
How is this for you? Reflect on how service minded you are, as an engineer. And what do you do to give a remarkable service? Please let me know in the comment box below. I look forward reading from you!
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