Along the back of winning the Belmont Small Business Customer Service Award last month. I thought that it might be a good idea to talk about customer service
When I first started my business, I heard many times “thank you so much for answering your phone, no one else has called me back!” needless to say, we got the jobs sometimes simply because we answered our phone. Strike while the iron is hot!
- Answer the phone – Early on my business was just myself and a business partner. My job as a bookkeeper and business systems consultant saw me out with clients at their office or sitting in meetings a lot of the time. Of course I could not answer the phone when in meetings with clients as during that time the only thing that mattered was the client (see 3. below). One of the first staff that I put on was a receptionist. This was a huge cost for me but as my business was very mobile it helped to make the business look bigger and increase perception of an office and stability as well as ensured that the phone was always answered and that our clients could hear a friendly voice when they called the phone numbers that they had. Now days you can pay for a virtual office means that mobile businesses can attain this perception a LOT earlier than I did.
- New Leads – When handed a lead, at my very first opportunity I would return the call. Even if the client was 6mths behind with their bookkeeping (ie sat on it for 6mths) they always wanted it sorted NOW! I have since learnt that people procrastinate. Procrastinators know that if they don’t push through and get something to happen NOW then it will be put down and left for another 3 months. Those that have procrastinated are also very stressed with the situation as it has been in the back of their minds for so long and nagging at them. So help them out and call them back immediately!
- Human behaviour – Your customer / clients wants to be in THAT busy restaurant (they want to go with a busy business as it shows that you are good at what you do) BUT they also want to be the ONLY customer / client in your eyes and theirs. As far as you customer is concerned, once they take you on, they are your only customer J . Don’t make excuses for being late due to other clients, don’t answer the phone when you are in their presence, ensure all of your attention is on them when you are with them. Move other appointments to be with them, never the other way around.
- Automation – The latest trends are for business to go online, advertise online, have booking options online. Yes I have always had a website and easy booking and payment options BUT not everyone fits into the options that you offer in writing on your website. Our phone number has always been a prominent part of our website AND we answer the phone. Our training centre has won many bookings as we have talked to them straight away and get back to them quickly with answers to their questions even the curly ones. The number that is listed is answered by someone that knows what they are talking about. Generally a phone call will just be “am I in the right area?” “ Are you the right business for me?”. In this case its just a quick confirmation on the phone and then ensure that the customer is at the correct area on the website to book and then a quick exit and let them do the typing after you have hung up.
- Phone Script – We have had a phone script at our reception desk for many years now. It may sound nerdy but when someone is new or your staff member goes on holidays the script gets used. A phone script to me also ensures that what is said on the phone is what I expect to be said on the phone (yes I am a control freak!). When someone calls you have a few minutes to get them interested and to let them know they have called the correct place. Our phone script has been fine tuned with all of the juicy marketing words over 15 years!
- Example phone script
Friendly greeting – smile into the phone!
They will ask the first question.
Ask them their name and location and how they heard about us (write that down, repeat their name in the conversation to connect with them). Ensure you take down the name, phone number and email early in the conversation.
Ask open ended question – tell me about yourself and why you want to do the course? Are you looking for bookkeeping / accounts work at the moment? Are you currently working in admin? Do you want part time flexible hours? Is it recognition of what you are already doing to move upwards in your job? Does your boss want you to be more skilled in high end bookkeeping.
Etc… etc… etc – this works so well and its amazing how much information you can gather ready to input into your lead management system or basic spreadsheet – whatever makes you follow up and make the sale.
- Listening – New clients (and any complaints!) ALWAYS listen to them first, reason being
- New client – listen to their needs, write them down, keep them on file forever! Make sure that when they finish talking that you tell them which of their needs you excel at and why you will be the best for them (because you excel at all that they need). Now if you talked first and did not listen, how would you know what they need and how to service them perfectly??
- If the person is upset they want to get something off their chest. Let them do this, it’s the best way to help them to calm down. As they are talking listen and try to figure out what would work for them as a person, as an offer to make it all better for them, money back, redo at no cost, ensure they you will look at your processes and re-write them so the incident never happens again
- Under sell and over deliver –
- Time wise. Add a few days/weeks to your estimated completion date. Then deliver early. Hard to do but will always delight your customer. At the very latest deliver on time. We are all the forever optimists and expect to finish earlier than we do. So just make a rule now to add time on your delivery dates, just because.
- When presenting the final product. Let them know how you went over and above and point out all of those extra touches that you have done just because you love what you do.
- Over delivering is they way to get your customers mouths to open and have them talk about “this amazing thing that they did that was unexpected” . Over delivering is how you can tap into those referral leads.
- Progress communications – I have never heard someone complain about a service if they have been kept in the loop the whole way through. Even if the job goes bad, if you are communicating and letting them know that you are using your experience and years of experience to solve the problems as they arise then they will stick with you.Every communication gives the customer a chance to be in control of the situation, they assess what you have told them and can make a decision then to ask for a different outcome or pull out completely. You will never lose with this as it’s very rarely that a customer will pull out and if they do pull out, they will not have a bad word to say about you as you did everything possible to rectify the situation.
I hope you found this helpful,
Until next time,