Create a Great Customer Experience … not Just Service

It is easy to overlook customer service as an entrepreneur.  Once we’ve tackled team building, book keeping, scheduling, product building and somehow finding five minutes of free time to enjoy for ourselves our customers can go somewhat unnoticed.

But, as is most often the case, if it weren’t for our customers all these other things would be null-and-void because we wouldn’t be in business at all.

Unless you live on a secluded island, it’s likely that you experienced a variety of customer service every day – at the bank, in the post office, at the grocery store.

What makes you want to keep depositing your cheques at the same financial institution or keep going back for more locally grown produce at the mom-and-pop corner store?  Think back to the last time you had a customer service experience.

What did you enjoy about the interaction?

Was there anything that you truly hated?

Why did you like or dislike the service you received?

Did the company make you feel valued and special?

How did they achieve that?

By utilizing on our experiences, we can begin to develop a customer experience that is both exceptional and unique to our business.

If you’ve ever worked for a large corporation “Customer Experience” is a buzz word that gets thrown around like confetti at a wedding.  Why?  Because these companies know that they by providing an experience and not just a service to their customer they will continue to thrive and grow.

And if you’ve ever received a call or email after you’ve received some sort of service – help with your cell phone plan, booking a hotel room, depositing a cheque – you’ll most likely be asked to rate your experience on a scale of 1-10.

Companies use these scores to evaluate how their service staff are performing and what can be done to improve your experience and grow their customer base.  Interestingly, middle of the road scores tend to mean nothing, but low scores (1-2) and high scores (9-10) will most likely prompt an action from said company.

So, what does this all mean for your small business?  It means that in order to continue to thrive, you’ve got to place a high value on your customers and ensure that they will be giving you a 9 or 10 out of 10 after every interaction.  Here are my five top tips to take your customers’ experience from good to excellent.

Make it personal

 It’s no secret, we like to feel important.  When you feel valued, you are much more likely to want to continue interacting with said business.  Making a person feel special may sound complicated (and expensive!), but it doesn’t have to be.  If we strip Customer Experience down to its bare bones, it’s really just building a relationship, whether it be a one-time interaction or a long-term affiliation.

Simple actions like choosing the word client over customer suggests a continuing relationship, rather than a one-off encounter.  Using your client’s name (I always like to start with Mr. X and work up to first names, but you know your clients best, so work within your comfort zone here) builds rapport and shows respect.

If you are building a long-term relationship, remembering a small detail about your client can go a long way – for example, they have a sweet dog, or a gaggle of kids, or they’ve recently moved house – and asking after these details can dramatically increase their feeling of value.  And when a client feels valued by you, they’ll keep coming back for more.

Be knowledgeable

This may sound obvious, but nothing demands respect like knowing what you’re talking about.  This doesn’t just mean being able to spout off a list of complicated facts about your business; it means being able to engage with you customer and explain your services and products in a way that they understand.

“Knowledge is power” said Francis Bacon, and this goes both ways.  Being knowledgeable about your business makes you the authority on your subject, and your ability to impart that knowledge to your clients gives them the ability to understand exactly what products and services they are receiving from you.

Explaining your businesses services and products in Layman’s terms will gain your client’s trust and allow you to continue building your business relationship with them.

 Be Concise

We’ve all been stuck behind a chatty-Cathy in a grocery store lineup at some point.  Your sense of frustration may grow as they pour out their life story to the helpless store clerk while the teams of people in the lineup quietly fume away as a quick grocery run turns into hours of wasted time.

We’ve also most likely been subject to the bored sales representative who wants to tell you all about their cute cat / dogs / kids when you really just wanted to know the difference between product X or product Y.  So, my point here is two-fold:

  1. Keep your interactions concise. This doesn’t mean you have to rush through your conversations with clients as this can come across as rude, but equally don’t spend hours on chit-chat either.

 Begin your conversation with a simple pleasantry – ideally using a close-ended question that shows genuine interest while discouraging the sharing of a whole life story – and then get on with business.

There’s no need for you to be the bored store clerk in your interactions, so if you know you have a tendency for chit-chat, take some time to plan your conversations before you make a call or attend a meeting.

  1. Don’t be afraid to guide the conversation. If you find yourself suddenly surrounded by photos of cats or grandkids, don’t be afraid to steer the conversation (politely!) back to the subject at hand.

If you have a pre-existing relationship with a client who likes to chat, don’t be afraid to set boundaries.  This could be as simple as scheduling an end time for your meeting or phone call – for example “thanks Mr. Brown, I look forward to our meeting from 9 until 10 tomorrow morning”.

Kill with Kindness

My friend has worked in customer service for over ten years and this is her golden rule.  I’ve heard her say it over and over and I’ve seen her apply it to a variety of situations.  And it works.  There are numerous psychological studies that show how we will subconsciously copy, or mirror, a person’s nonverbal communications.

So, if an angry client is met with frustration, the likelihood is that they will mirror that frustration and the conversation will escalate.  But if that same upset client is met with a gentle smile and some kind words they will likely have a much calmer and more manageable interaction with you.  There’s a reason that smiling is contagious, so use it to your advantage.

Handle With Care

An interaction with an upset client can quickly take a wrong turn if your reaction isn’t polite and controlled.  This doesn’t mean you need to let your clients walk all over you, nor am I saying that “the customer is always right”, because we all know that they are not.  When handling an upset client, following these steps will help you to resolve the issue amicably:

 Allow the client space to explain their frustrations. There’s nothing worse than feeling angry about something and being constantly interrupted while trying to explain yourself.

  • Summarize the clients concerns to demonstrate that you have listened and understood.
  • Sympathize with their concerns with a simple phrase such as “I understand your concerns.”
  • Confirm that you would like to work with your client to resolve their concerns.
  • Follow through with your suggested actions.
  • Follow up later to ensure the client is satisfied.

The way you handle a dissatisfied client will pave the way for all future interactions.

Our clients are the ones who allow us to do what we love every day so it’s important we ensure their customer experience is always excellent.

Happy clients are much more likely to recommend your business to their friends and can save you a lot of time and money trying to attract new business.  Following these easy steps to great customer experience will help to sustain and grow your business.