How Are You Communicating With Your Customers?
When it comes to working with customers, there are numerous ways to make a lasting impression. Sometimes a friendly tone of voice over the phone is all it takes to win a customer over. Perhaps your quick response time is all the customer needs to give you their business. And in some industries, taking on some level of risk to help a customer in need will secure years of future business.
Why is customer service so critical? No matter what your approach is, it’s important to remember that your customers will form an impression of your business based on their experience, for better or for worse. I’ve seen several businesses adopt the mindset of ‘my customer needs me; therefore they will wait for me to get back to them.’ These businesses then seemed dumbfounded when they lost out on big contracts. Other businesses adopt the mindset of ‘my customer has given me an opportunity to help them’ and bend over backwards to win the customer’s business. These businesses tend to be a bit more successful.
Ultimately, customers seek your assistance as they believe you can offer them some value. And while money talks in business, in many situations it is our actions that actually forge or break the relationships.
Here are some examples of actual interactions with customers with a Fortune 500 company, and the resulting lessons:
Example 1: A business was given 2 months to make a proposal on a very large project. The business was a month late with their proposal and 40% higher in price than the competitor. The company did not win the contract.
Lesson 1: If you know you are not the lowest cost competitor, you need to win customers over by other means. In this example, had the business reacted faster, or offered something else beyond what the customer wanted, the outcome may have been different.
Example 2: A business was awarded a contract that included customer-funded travel every six months to update the customer’s executives on progress. The business only spent the funds on 1 of the 2 trips, pocketing the rest of the funds as profit. After several years, no change in this approach was taken despite customer complaint and the business eventually lost the contract.
Lesson 2: Ethical practices are extremely important in business, not only for a company’s reputation, but also for securing long lasting partnerships with customers. Be sure to understand the contract and honor various agreements that were made.
Example 3: A customer called a store after they had purchased an item. The item has not been charged correctly in line with the advertised promotion. The customer service representative at the other end of the phone immediately refunded the balance to the credit card on file without asking the customer to return to the store to confirm the product was indeed the one on promotion.
Lesson 3: Enabling and empowering those who interact with customers to make immediate decisions can leave a great impression on customers. Rather than wait for a manager’s approval or being put on hold for 10 minutes, the customer’s needs were immediately addressed thereby encouraging the customer to return to the store at a future date.
Leaving customers with a good impression must be a fundamental goal for any business with any customer. In retail, quickly ringing up goods at the register indicates you value your customer’s time. Even though an online business may sell an item in a quick transaction, a follow up email a week later to confirm the customer is satisfied shows a customer you want to ensure they are pleased with the product. And if a desperate customer calls seeking your help, you do what you can to help with a sense of urgency, even if outside your normal business practice.
Keep in mind that a customer’s impression will extend beyond the product or service you provide. The impression will be based on the product or service, as well as how easy or difficult your business is to work with. Your actions and willingness to go above and beyond the basic business transaction can go a long way in securing future business and maintaining a good relationship with customers.