Are you losing more clients than you gain every month? Do you feel like you’re always on the defensive with complaints about pricing, service or the lousy attitude of one of your technicians? Client service, often referred to as “customer service,” is one of the most challenging and often overlooked activities in the service business. But it can be the most profitable thing you do.
Client service is about cultivating the relationship after the sale. Treating your customers as “clients” means you make a conscious effort to make each contact with them meaningful. Think about how much time and money you invest each month to earn new business through advertising, direct mail, e-mails and the quality of your work on every service call. As a business owner, you do everything you can to ensure that time and money hasn’t been wasted.
Word-of-mouth is the most powerful form of advertising there is. It can work for or against your company. Even if you have performed your services flawlessly, one bad phone call or a grumpy technician can quickly destroy all your efforts ten times over. Clients keep score on the little things, like the mood of your technician, smiling and making eye contact or how your bookkeeper answered a billing question.
According to Technical Assistance Research Programs (TARP), a Washington-based research firm:
- The average business does not hear from 96% of its unhappy customers
- A customer who has a negative experience with a business will tell about 10 other people and about 13% will tell more than 20 people
- A customer who has a good experience with a business will tell about five people
- For every complaint a business receives, there are an additional 26 with problems, and at least six of those are serious
- 65-90% of non-complainers will not buy from you again, and you’ll never know the reason why
- Surveys show that you can win back 54-70% of these customers simply by resolving their complaints
- As much as 95% of this group will become loyal customers again if their complaints are handled well and quickly
So how do you make the most of the positives and eliminate the negatives?
Adopt the Golden Rule as your company mantra.
Treat each person like a million-dollar client, The words you use, the tone in your voice and your body language all determine how your client perceives your company. This goes a long way to ensure that you always receive positive word-of-mouth advertising. It will also reduce the advertising expenses necessary to attract and keep new clients.
Everyone in your company, from the bookkeeper to the technician, must take this approach on a daily basis. Consistently treat your clients as you would like to be treated. You will not believe how easy it is, and how few of your competitors practice it.
Preventive maintenance applies to running a service business too.
Implement regular client service training meetings. Dedicate 30 minutes per week to brushing up on a particular skill through role-playing. Tackle a difficult issue that has come up frequently with your coworkers.
Practice flat rate pricing with your clients.
If you are not already doing it, flat rating is a great way to eliminate stress when it comes to making quotes for your services, provide consistency no matter what the job and increase referrals. Flat Rate Plus or Flat Rate Books on CD allow you to print your own price books whenever you need them.
Keep a record of all client communication.
Keeping a record of your service calls, special offers, direct mailings and even day-to-day phone contacts is vital to serving your clients better. Maintaining a paper trail, or better yet, an electronic record of this activity helps you to build a profile of the ideal client and identify opportunities with the people you serve.
Ask your clients how you’re doing.
The best way to uncover potential problems is to ask. Send out a short survey to a hand-picked group of clients from your database. Offer a small incentive for their participation in the survey, such as dinner for two at a nice restaurant, movie tickets or a DVD player. Surveys are an inexpensive and effective way to learn how your clients really feel about you and often a way to improve your services.
Client phone follow-up is another easy way to measure your performance.
Spend one Friday afternoon each month calling a few clients to see how they’re doing. Even if they don’t have any problems, the mere fact that you cared enough to call will speak volumes about your company. How many of your competitors will do that?
The bottom line is to value each contact you make and to put a high priority on serving your clients well. You will see positive, measurable results in your business for your efforts.