One of the key predictors of success is your ability to be seen as representing a company which offers consistently excellent customer service.  And here is how I define it:  Customer service excellence is the perception by each customer that they have received the right solution, administered with quality, completed in a timely manner and priced at a good value.

Note that I frame it as a perception by others.  All of us may believe that we go to great lengths to offer outstanding service, but ultimately customer service is defined by how the customer feels.

Great customer service has many other attributes.  It includes respecting each customer, paying attention to their needs and requests, and offering sufficient information so that there are clear expectations.

I would like to share five keys elements I follow to ensure the best possible service to prospects and customers.

ARE WE A MATCH? – In your first conversation or visit with a potential client, it is vital to identify what they need and what you offer.  If you cannot solve their problem or offer a particular service they seek, you are better off helping direct them to someone who can.  You may not get the job, but if you provide referrals to others better suited for the work, they will remember you for your honesty, and over time you will receive referrals as well.  Trying to fit your round solution into someone else’s square problem almost always results in disappointment. In whatever business you a part of, if you try to land every job, you will spend more time, have longer and more complicated discussions and you will not enhance your reputation in the marketplace,  And if you are a local business, believe me, the word will spread. 

BE HONEST – Don’t over-promise and attempt to minimize either how long the work will take or what the cost will be.  If there are obvious complications, you must address them at the outset as to why the job will involve additional effort and how that will affect the cost. I have found that clients respect honesty, perhaps because they don’t always experience it from others they have done business with. And be clear about any work you don’t do.  Getting the scope of the project clearly identified is essential.

LISTEN ACTIVELY – Some clients have a tendency to downplay the situation.  When you hear that someone has “a simple, easy to manage issue”, your ears should perk up as there is at least a 50:50 chance that you will find a significantly larger project.  You should always inquire about all the factors involved before talking about solutions and scope.  In your business, pay attention and probe to get all the information you require at the front end of every project.

UPDATE, UPDATE, UPDATE – Sometimes you work with folks who like to ask questions.  That’s fine, but you will also have many clients who will just let you make a proposal and work uninterrupted. They may be busy with other tasks, leave for a period or get distracted.  When you do see them, or they call, you should explain what you have done and what the next steps are.  And if something new or unexpected has arisen – and it will – you need to contact them and explain how that will affect the work and potentially your proposal.  No surprises should be your motto.

BE RESPONSIVE – It can be tough when you are making sales calls, doing the actual work, handling inbound queries or requests for additional projects and reporting progress to internal and external clients.

For a business you are involved with, develop a system that gives you an opportunity to return calls, emails, and texts in a timely fashion. I don’t try to book appointments with just the minimal time for travel between sites.  I build in a cushion so that if I need to get gas, grab a bite, or return several calls, I can do that and still have time to arrive on-time for the next client.  And if I am going to be more than 5 minutes late, I will call and advise you.  That’s right, 5 minutes.

Develop a customer service excellence plan for your company.  Commit it to paper and revise the plan as you gain experience and encounter difficult situations.  And be sure that every employee knows and understands what your company stands for.  You cannot discuss this topic too often with the people you work with.

None of us can improve our financial results by staring at costs and gross profit figures all day long.  But I do know that a strong and continuous commitment to customer service excellence will improve my bottom line.  And yours.


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