Whether you work for a start-up or a fortune 500 company, you have to focus on your customers if you want them to continue paying you. Always. What I’m about to tell you may seem obvious, but if you think back to your most recent customer service experience, there’s a high likelihood that you’ll remember it as something less than enjoyable.* Herewith, the five-step approach to remarkable, high touch customer service for B2B companies.
- Realize that you’re starting what will (hopefully!) be a long relationship. Starting a customer relationship isn’t always easy. You’re learning and picking up on the nuances of each others communication styles. In my work at HigherOne, I found it helpful to think of new client meetings or phone calls like a first date. In other words, I learned to anticipate some awkwardness, and adapt accordingly. Also like on a first date, you want to put your company’s best foot forward. Specifically, by quickly establishing trust while generating enough excitement to maintain a thriving, long-lasting relationship. There may be times when you don’t feel an immediate connection with a new customer. That’s okay. Stay patient and persevere.
- Be a great listener. Another step that is massively important but very difficult to pull off is listening attentively to your customers. Our attention is pulled in a million different directions by external and internal noise, and the customer issue you’re sorting out is probably never going to be the only one on your to-do list. But pretend it is, at least while you’re addressing the customer at hand. Go ahead and resolve to shut out your internal dialogue whenever a customer is talking, and do your best to not start thinking of a response until their entire issue has been presented.There are really two parts to being a great listener. The first is really, truly, actively listening and the second is being open and ready to receive what customers have to say no matter what. Sometimes we fall into the trap of only hearing what we want to hear, or, in customer service situations, only what we are capable of fixing. These tendencies, especially the latter ones, can impede good customer service. So listen first, listen completely, and then resolve the issue.
- Make sure all correspondence and calls end on a positive note. People are so appreciative of basic politeness. Always open your emails with a “Good Morning” or “Good Afternoon.” Ask a friendly question or add an “I hope you’re well” before you get down to business. Be positive. Have fun. Show your sense of humor if you have it. If not, smile through all of your communications with the customer. They are your purpose. If you have some discretionary resources or a small amount of time, send thank you notes or emails. Send swag. Ask them if they’ve seen any good movies recently. Ask them about their vacations and their children. If you read an interesting article in their industry, send it to them. If you find a “safe for work” YouTube video, send it to them to brighten their day. At my last company, I would lead project teams of college administrators. To spruce up my client calls I would ask a random trivia question at the beginning of the call. It would simulate the water-cooler experience that everyone needs before they can get down and focus on the task at hand.
- Stay in Touch. I can’t stress enough the importance of relentlessly following up with clients. Use whatever works for you to track the customer relationship. Take the drip marketing approach. Consistent communication, whether it be daily or weekly, will pay off. Each interaction with the client doesn’t have to have a huge, life-changing goal associated with it. Calling just to check in is sometimes a nice reprieve from the typical business call.
- Whatever the issue is, make it right. Sometimes, a customer has a problem we don’t know how to fix immediately. And that’s okay. Just listen to the issue, and after it’s articulated, offer to call the customer back as soon as you can identify the fix or by the end of the day in any event with an update.
- Make the whole customer experience seamless. Customers will ask for things (features, training, in-person visits). It’s their right as your customer. How you respond to their wishes will make or break their experience. Although it’s not realistic to give them what they want all of the time, you can come to a middle ground where both parties are satisfied. When you do settle on a compromise, don’t let the client see the messy details (internal politics, drafts, revisions, etc) that happened behind the scenes leading up to that point. You always want to provide a seamless customer service interaction. Scramble around in the background all you want but when you construct that email, make that in-person visit or call them on the phone, you must have complete composure. It’s crucial to show the customer a stellar finished product. This builds trust and respect, the foundations of any long-lasting relationship. If you’re creative and you think outside of the box, you will be excellent at this because you don’t need a lot of resources to make someone happy.
Keep these tips at the forefront of effort, and you’ll have very happy repeat customers.
*If your most recent customer service experience was, in fact, positive, then mea culpa. I’d love to hear about what happened and why the customer service made an impression on you in the comments below.
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