Dealing with businesses that don’t care makes for an unsatisfying customer experience. But being customer centered is the ground where smaller businesses can beat the bigger players, hands down, and it involves dividends.
Larger organisations have so many customers each one is a faceless individual, another problem to be processed. And it often feels as if they don’t mind about losing your custom. For smaller businesses, where each customer accounts for a significant chunk of revenue, giving each person the attention they deserve makes good business sense.
As an independent HR specialist, I recognise the importance of being customer centered and place the people I look after at the heart of my business. Here, I share my top customer care tips.
Stand Out by Standing Back
In an era of continuous sharing on social media, we’ve all been trained to talk about ourselves and promote what we do. But when everyone else is doing the same, customers can feel like you’re more interested in self-promotion than helping them.
Address this by ensuring your customer centered employees are trained to actively listen to your customers. Of course, it’s important to build rapport but you can do this by asking probing questions that show you’re interested in understanding their problem or business. This also means you will uncover your clients’ needs and can sympathise with their frustrations.
Listening to learn will also mean you’re focussed on what is being said rather than what you’re going to say next. Open-ended questions – that encourage your customer to share more about their challenges, plans and goals – will reveal everything you need to be able to provide them with top service.
Keep In Touch
With the whirlwind of business life, keeping in touch with your customers can fall by the wayside. If you have a large number of customers, sending out feedback questionnaires is a great way to show them you’re interested in their views.
For smaller customer numbers, sign up to key clients’ social media feeds or company newsletters to keep up-to-date with changes in their world.
Mountain or Molehill?
What seems like an insignificant problem to you could feel like the end of the world for your customer. No matter how small the problem they bring to you, show compassion and provide your usual excellent level of professional insight. This will build a relationship of trust and, when they face other problems, they’ll be far more likely to come to you again.
Ensure You’re Being Customer Centered
Following up with your clients to see how your services are working out for them is a good way to keep in touch and deal with any issues before they arise.
In this instance, generic emails won’t cut it. Personal follow-ups that reference particular goals and seek feedback will leave your clients with a warm glow. Where possible, holding regular face-to-face catch-ups are an even better way to cement your relationship.
There’s no need to limit the conversation to the services you are providing. Broaden your meeting to make it a more general catch-up and you could uncover hidden opportunities to provide more support helping both your client and your business.
Also, ensure that you give clients the opportunity to raise issues with you; this is extremely important to ensure your relationship is a long-term one as we discuss in the next section.
When Things Go Bad Exceed Expectations
Research from Harvard Business Review shows that it’s how businesses deal with problems that can make or break the customer relationship:
“When it comes to service, companies create loyal customers primarily by helping them solve their problems quickly and easily.”
When things go wrong, the best way to put it right is to make it easy for your customers to get what they want by removing obstacles.
Ensure customers don’t have to contact your business multiple times to put a problem right; remove the need for them to repeat the same information; make sure they don’t need to be transferred. Basically, solve the problem right the first time.
Empowering your people to take ownership of customer problems and ensuring they have the training to correct them is the key to secure customer loyalty.
How To Be Customer Centered
It’s easy to forget that your customers don’t exist solely between the hours of 9am and 5pm. Like you, they have lives, families, friends and important events outside of work.
As Shep Hyken, Customer Service Expert, Author and Keynote Speaker says:
“The greatest technology in the world hasn’t replaced the ultimate relationship building tool between a customer and a business; the human touch.”
Keep an eye out for opportunities to deepen your relationship with your clients. There’s no need to pry; as you get to know them it’s likely they’ll mention a special trip or major life event. Simply remember to ask them about it when you next speak to them.
This kind of care goes beyond the customer/provider relationship and demonstrates genuine human interest that goes beyond business.
As an independent consultant, I pride myself on combining in-depth HR expertise with a personal touch for being customer centered.