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Customer/Client Service: The Ultimate Business Development Tool

Written by Ian Cooper

When it comes to achieving outstanding business development success, who is the most important person in your organisation? Your Chief Executive? Managing Director? Head of Business Development? Marketing Director? No … the answer is ‘your customer’ / ‘client’!

As I got up to speak recently at a seminar on customer service as the ultimate business development tool, I overheard a mutter … “here we go again … another lecture on being nice to customers and clients … what a waste of space”. This is a very expensive and flawed attitude.

Companies and organisations who understand the power of this ‘being nice to customers and clients’, basic truism and who place the customer’s needs and ‘feelings’, at the centre of every decision and interaction, are the ones who will establish a differential advantage over their competitors. They will also be able to charge and get the prices and fees they deserve and have a commercially successful future. Make no mistake, in this highly competitive age … ‘customer service’ is the ultimate business development success platform.

Simple you may say, but if it is so obvious, why is it that so few businesses get it right? From my personal research and experience ….

– 68% of organisations have no active policy for keeping in touch after the first purchase.
– 45% of organisations still have limited information about their own customers and clients.
– Less than 20 % of organisations provide training for their staff in customer services techniques, strategies and personal skills.
– Only around 25% of organisations have a structured system to foster recommendations and referrals.

So here are the top 6 things you must understand or learn:

1. Customer service is about every aspect of an organisations business 
Customer / client service is much more than a separate series of ‘things to do’, dreamt up by a few of the directors who ‘get it’ and then left to the marketing team to run. Customer service is a way of thinking. It is a ‘mindset’ to be embedded in the focus and philosophy of the firm, that drives every small decision, communication and interaction.

2. Customer service should be experienced as an emotion
The aim of great customer service is to ‘influence’ customers and clients and others to ‘feel’ positive about you and your brand. People make their decisions to choose you, return for more, or recommend you, based totally on how they ‘feel’ about you. If you want to encourage and foster these wise decisions, then your strategic focus needs to be on what you need to do or say to influence their ‘feelings’.

3. Great customer service wins you new business
Customer / client service is not just about being ‘nice’, it will win you bucket loads of business. For example, sometime ago I was asked to help a family department in a mid-sized law firm, increase their conversion of telephone enquiries for private divorce work from a pitiful 13%. Callers were dealt with by untrained staff who treated potential clients as though they were a nuisance. Callers were often emotionally distressed. They were processed. There was no real conversation, empathy, rapport or interest. I showed them how to deal with these enquiries with a ‘customer service’ driven focus. Within a few months the conversion rate was 82% … and the firm an extra half a million pounds better off!

4. Great customer / client service will bring you increased repeat business, facilitate cross selling and turn your past clients into your sales-force 
When are you next in touch with past customers and clients after a job, engagement, or purchase has been concluded? If you don’t know, or care, I can tell you now you are leaving cash on the table! Keeping in touch to build a relationship and to make sure that they know of your full range of services, will keep them coming back. This of course is providing they were satisfied with you in the first place.

5. Clients will judge you by ‘service delivery’ and not just the quality of your ‘product’
You need to be able to differentiate between the technical or product quality of what you do for customers and your ‘service delivery’. Your product or technical proficiency will be taken for granted as a given. Customers and clients will not just judge you just by your product or know how, but by how they were made to ‘feel’. How were they greeted? Did they feel you supported with the right level of empathy and personal interest?

6. Customer / client service training is a ‘must’ and not an option. 
Remember, people buy people first! Your people need to understand that good customer and client service includes certain personal skills. These include empathy; taking a real interest in customers and clients; putting yourself in their shoes; going out of your way to help; managing their anxieties and feelings. All these and more are personal skills and techniques, that can be learnt and improved.

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