How Are You Communicating With Your Customers?

Basic Lessons in Customer Service

When it comes to working with customers, there are numerous ways to make a lasting impression that will bring them back to you time and time again.  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.  We wanted to take some time to talk about the basics of customer service.

Why is Customer Service Such a Big Deal?

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.  We have all had personal experience with bad customer service in our persona lives.  You know, the mindset of ‘my customer needs me; therefore they will wait for me to get back to them.’  But then, these businesses often seem dumbfounded when they lose out on big contracts.  By contrast, we have all seen examples of good customer service.  These are the companies that 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.

Need Help With Customer Service?  MRH Recommends…


The Fred Factor by Mark Sanborn

The Fred Factor is based on a real man, Fred the postman in Denver, Colorado. Author Mark Sanborn uses the story of Fred to illustrate how we can best serve our customers and how little things can ultimately go a really long way in the world of business. If you deal with customers, or are looking to find ways to go the extra mile for your clients, The Fred Factor is a great place to start. It’s a short, easy read that packs in many examples that we can all learn and benefit from. Be a Fred!

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.  A customer’s experience will have a lasting impression on them and always has implications for future business.

Real Examples of Customer Service

Here are some examples of actual interactions with customers with a Fortune 500 company, and the resulting lessons.  In each one, put yourself in the customers’ shoes.  How would you feel?  Would you bring your business back to these companies?

Example 1:  Making a Proposal

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.

The Lesson:

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: Not Fulfilling Your End of the Agreement 

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.

The Lesson:

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 your contracts with customers, and honor the agreements that were made.

Example 3:  Trusting Your Customers

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.

The Lesson:

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.


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Developing an RFP and RFQ Response

This MRH ProGuide contains everything you need to know to help you develop solid responses to your customers’ RFPs and RFQs. This ProGuide is packed with tips on everything from formatting your document, to setting a capture strategy, to evaluating your competition. It also includes a sample outline for your RFP Response as well as a printable checklist to help you review your RFP Response before submitting it to your client.

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So What Messages Should You Send?

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.

Here Are Some Key Messages You Want to Send To Your Customers:

  • We Care About You As A Customer
  • We Want You To Be Satisfied By Our Products and Services
  • Your Needs are Unique and We Want to Meet Them
  • We Want You to Come Back Next Time
  • We Want You To Tell Others About Us

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.  It doesn’t need to be hard, you and your staff just need to make the effort.  Your goal should be to make first-time customer becomes lifetime customers!


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A Sample RFP Format (With Commentary)




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