By Joanna Swash, Group CEO of Moneypenny
Moneypenny answers outsourced calls, live chat and digital comms for thousands of businesses across the UK and the US
Building a strong relationship, a partnership in business, takes time, care and understanding. Done correctly it will win hearts and pockets as well as creating brand ambassadors. It is undisputedly good business. On the other hand, if it is not given the proper care and attention it can lead to business failure.
As with any relationship it can be easily shattered. Remaining consistent in your approach to customer satisfaction and service is key, even when the world throws you a lemon or two.
Communicate. Don't shy away from the situation. True business partnerships are a two-way street. Manage your customer's trust through engaging with them. Listening and learning. Do this calmly, professionally and with a smile. You can always learn from feedback, positive or negative. Be open and even request their opinions and suggestions, it lets customers know that you do value them, what they think and what they expect of you.
Regular reviews of a customer's service are a must, but they mean nothing if you don't take any notice of what they are saying to you. Use them for the good of your business, to evolve and work together. In changing times, it will be ever more business-critical to be agile. Ask them how you can help, what do they need from you and then facilitate the solution. This may mean innovations from you, reminding them of a complementary service you also offer or speaking with a trusted partner. Either way, their business is your business. At its most practical it is in your business interest but at its most efficient it is part of your purpose and values.
As for complaints, well someone once said that they are opportunities for improvement. However hard you try; you cannot please everyone all of the time. Listening and reacting to what you hear can help to build a long-lasting relationship and that is the ultimate aim.
We have all had experience of terrible customer service and vowed that we would never respond in that way if you were in their shoes. Flip this on its head and try to think of how you look from a customer's perspective. Your job is to take care and make any customer query your own. The worst thing you can be is indifferent.
Care. Customer service is all about making customers feel valuable and important and all customers deserve your full attention and a positive attitude. Do not treat them as a number or a one-off transaction.
We are all human beings and we all value human interaction. For example, during the initial lockdown, we found that phone call duration increased for our clients. People will remember the business that made an effort to call them to inform on the status of their services under lockdown and are likely to repay them with brand loyalty. In a time when face-to-face meetings may not able to go ahead, or advised at all in some cases, this is your lifeline. One simple call can make all the difference.
And remember don't break your promises or forget your basic manners – if you say you will call back in an hour, do it; smile; say please and thank you. It doesn't go unnoticed. For this you must trust your people to be professional, to take responsibility, to be honest and do all of the things I have mentioned above. The little things matter. Not only is it good business it is good PR, and that goes a long way.
We live in an age where instant gratification is the norm and that means that today's customers want to be able to get in touch quickly and easily. Long periods on hold or phones ringing out are not acceptable. Whether it is immediate answers to queries or a simple human contact to reassure them, clients expect quick responses with accurate information.
Channel. Use your data to make informed decisions about the best way for you to deliver the information required by your customer. There are so many channels available to us today, choosing the right one to effectively deliver the message is crucial.
And more are on the horizon as technological innovations come into their own. Demand for digital switchboards, for example, is really gaining in popularity thanks to the widespread acceptance of the likes of Alexa in people's homes and we are rapidly getting closer to more realistic computer interactions. Fundamental to all of this, however, is how does your customer like to receive the information. Your customer service offering should include many alternatives, from phone and email to Live Chat and self-screening health bots.
A loyal customer can stop being your customer at the drop of a hat. Take care of them and you will be rewarded many times over. It will set your brand apart from the competition and is a business-critical tool.