Most business owners will repeat the mantra that customer service is critical to their success.
Lately, though, I've had some personal experiences that make me realize that many businesses still don't get "it." An encounter with my HVAC contractor and an exchange with my insurance agent both left me dissatisfied.
On the flip side, I received great customer service while working out some details of a project with the staff at CreateSpace.
All of these got me thinking about how businesses might best relate to their customers.
Whatever your field, whether in the trades or retail or customer service or professional services, here are five commitments to keep in mind in order to keep your customers and clients happy and coming back.
- Do what you say you'll do. Often referred to as the DWYSYWD principle, it means exactly what it suggests. If you tell a customer that you will deliver a particular good at a specified time, deliver it. If you promise a client a phone call, make it. If you say you'll send an email, send it.
- Communicate. If for some reason you cannot deliver what you said you would when you said you would, then let the customer/client know that's the case, and tell them why. Make sure it's a "good why" and a legitimate explanation.
- Answer questions. If you have billing formula that doesn't show up on your invoice and your customer/client asks how you arrived at the charges, be prepared to tell them. Always be ready with a solid rationale and offer it without defensiveness.
- Be respectful and pleasant. It's not always easy to maintain your composure with customers/clients if they are asking questions, being critical, or are upset about something, but it's your responsibility to take the high road. Respect and pleasantness will more often than not diffuse a tense situation, leave an opening for a productive resolution, and/or allow the customer/client to leave the encounter with understanding even if they're not in agreement.
- Know the difference between your value and your pride. Good businesses should expect a good price. But carrying your fees around as an entitlement doesn't make anyone feel good about what you're charging. It's one thing to show value in the product and service; it's quite another to lead with an attitude that says "we'll take what we want from you because we're so good."
Consistently practicing these five commitments with customers and clients will strengthen your reputation and keep them coming back.