I read an interesting blog this morning entitled ‘Customer service key to Christmas’.  It was music to my ears!  Is good service more important than discounted prices?  Yes – every time.  Of course we all like to get a bargain, but if a lower price means the level of service is compromised, it’s not a good deal.  In my opinion, communication is the key to great customer service.  What’s more, it doesn’t cost a lot in terms of time or money, but the rewards are huge.

As the executor of a will, I’ve recently had dealings with a fairly large firm of solicitors.  If you were to look at this company’s website and listen to the recorded phone messages, you’d probably be delighted to hear that I, as a client, am the most important person in the world.  At least that’s the theory … until it comes to communicating with me, that is.  My emails have gone unanswered and phone calls unreturned.  Eventually I couldn’t take any more and I made a complaint.  After a couple of letters, the gist of the senior partner’s reply was … ‘it wasn’t their policy to communicate because it cost too much money!’

How many small businesses can afford to take that sort of attitude? WORD-right certainly can’t.   Will I be recommending that firm of solicitors to anyone?  Not in a million years!  Will I be telling everyone about the poor service?  Of course I will!

It doesn’t take too much imagination to work out that, if your client, customer or prospect sends an enquiry, it’s because they need information … ignore it at your peril.  If you don’t respond and at least try to provide the answers, they’ll pretty soon find someone who will.  And that someone might just be your competitor.

Imagine this scenario … you’ve just walked into a restaurant or a café.  You find a table and sit down.  If, after 15 minutes nobody has acknowledged your presence, let alone given you a menu or taken a drinks order, what will you do?  It’s likely you’ll make a fuss or walk out, and you’ll tell everyone who’ll listen about the appalling service.

On the other hand, providing you’re welcomed with a smile … told they are very busy so there might be a delay in fulfilling your order … you’ll sit there quite happily.  In fact, if they keep communicating with you and perhaps offer you a complimentary glass or two of wine, there’s a good chance you’ll wait for hours and still rave about the service!

Communication doesn’t cost a lot.  If you haven’t got time to answer that email in depth, at least acknowledge it.  Send a reply saying you’ll answer fully after lunch or the next day … and be sure you do!  If you’ve promised to phone someone back at a given time, make that call.  If you haven’t yet got the information they want, at least phone and tell them so.  That way, you’ve fulfilled your promise, the client knows they are not forgotten, and you’ve bought yourself some time.  Apart from being good practice, it’s just common courtesy.

And finally, if you have got it wrong and someone complains, hold your hand up … admit you’ve got it wrong and do something to put it right.  Good communication skills will help you win new business, increase your professional standing, and most importantly … keep your existing clients and customers coming back for more.

Blog post by Joy McCarthy

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