A client’s impression of you is formed (and reformed) based on thoughts, feelings, and encounters, which add up over time. These are often known as touch points; in marketing, we call it your brand. So really, every brand is built on the strength of its customer relationships.
Understanding this gives you an advantage. Every single customer interaction becomes a business development opportunity. But, you also have to be sincere and consistent. Here are some service opportunities you don’t want to overlook:
- Problem Solving Is Your Friend. If a customer has a question or concern, it’s never acceptable to leave them with, “I don’t know.” You may have no idea how to solve their problem, but it’s your job to figure it out. This is a common mistake among service professionals. They assume that, if they honestly don’t have the answer, they can’t help. But it misses the point of great service, which is to exceed customers’ needs. Teach your entire team how to call on other resources and find answers a customer is looking for. Problems aren’t bad; they’re actually opportunities for great service. And, by the way, the correct answer is: “I don’t know, but I’ll find out.”
- Master the Art of the Drop By. You don’t need a contract to extend a client relationship. It’s important to drop by and check on your customers when you aren’t trying to fix a problem or sell them something. This is a crucial step that many service providers miss, because they’re too busy putting out fires. (Or because they think a social call requires wining and dining.) Imagine your client as a friend—someone you’d want to stay in touch with. Keep it genuine, don’t overdo it, and just listen. When it comes to the end of the year, you may be surprised by who calls you asking for an upgrade.
- Forms, Contracts and Invoices. Paperwork is nobody’s favorite part of business. That includes your clients. So remember: you’re here to make it easier for them, not for you. What does this mean? Don’t delay a document that your client needs, just because it’s inconvenient, or because you get busy. This especially applies to invoicing. Being late on your invoices can cause problems for your client’s cash flow—and that is definitely bad service. So, spend more time keeping your own paperwork in order, so that the client’s experience is hassle-free.
- Conflict Resolution. Let’s face it: the customer isn’t always right. But, they should always be taken seriously. When a dispute arises, never make the mistake of losing a client. Relationships aren’t always easy, and sometimes you have to compromise. That doesn’t mean throwing your employees under the bus, or catering to some completely ridiculous whim. But it does mean remembering that conflict is part of any relationship. Your job is to listen, make your everyone feel valued, and take whatever steps necessary to solve the problem. As humans, we are naturally conflict avoidant, and can view these situations negatively, often acting from emotional frustration. Instead, remind yourself that this, too, is a customer touch point, and an opportunity to provide excellent service.
- No Door Is Ever Closed. If the client experience begins with the first interaction, that means leads that didn’t convert are clients, too. After all, you did take steps to cultivate a relationship. Never dismiss a relationship because it hasn’t become a sale. If you encounter this decision maker at a charity or local Chamber meeting, extend warmth and respect. Maybe agree to partner with them on a project at one of these associations. And don’t be shy of asking them, genuinely, how their current property needs are working out. Chances are good you’ll wind up closing the deal eventually, and gaining a loyal client relationship.