We've all heard the old adage "The customer is always right," but how do you ensure your customers consistently feel that way -- and that you as a business owner or manager are always putting customers first? With all the day-to-day considerations and logistics of running a company, this is no easy task.
As the long-time leader in office-space solutions, we've seen firsthand how the best of the best in business treat their customers so that they remain customers. Below, we share our top five tips.
We've seen this simple move pay off in industries ranging from food trucks to law: When it comes to client interaction, be responsive – and quickly. According to studies done in recent years, human beings now have a shorter average attention span than the notoriously distractible goldfish: eight seconds. That's down from about 12 seconds some 18 years ago.
While it's not always going to be possible to react in less than eight seconds to a client who's dropped by the office unannounced, the message of our ever-shortening patience threshold is that punctuality and swiftness are a necessity. People -- particularly those paying for or about to pay for a service -- do not like to wait. So hustle as much as possible, even if it's only to greet the unexpected client and have them shown to a conference room and offered coffee while you rush back to your office to tie up loose ends before rejoining them.
We've said it before, and we'll happily say it again: It's often the small, low- or no-cost gestures that get you the biggest ROI. One example is genuine thankfulness. A post-meeting email, phone call or -- perhaps best of all in this digital age -- handwritten thank-you note on good-quality cardstock to express gratitude at having your customer in your life can go a long way.
Even if the memo is as simple as saying thanks for a recent order, or telling them apropos of no particular business transaction how glad you are they've chosen to work with you, the gesture is sure to make your customer's day just a little bit better. And the customer is likely to remember that ‘unnecessary’ gesture long after you’ve forgotten about it, setting you and your company apart in their minds.
This one’s another for the above-and-beyond category: electing to spend time with your customer outside business hours or settings. Following the closing of a successful deal that made you and your client both happy, or the completion of a high-grossing order, for example, take things a step further and suggest an outside-the-office celebration.
This doesn’t need to be anything fancy; no five-course meals or Las Vegas shows are necessary. But dinner at a favorite restaurant of yours (or better, theirs), a ticket to join you at a local sports event with a team you know they like or an invitation to a potluck Saturday-afternoon party you’re throwing all tell a customer you like them as people and genuinely want to spend time with them. Even if they can’t make a particular event or meal, the fact that you thought of them when you didn’t ‘need’ to for financial reasons is a real confidence booster – and a move that will keep you in their high regard.
Perhaps best and most frequently on display in real estate, company-to-client generosity leaves a lasting impression. Again, it needn’t be extravagant to ‘count’ or go some way toward keeping your client as a client.
Last summer, a colleague and her husband sold their Cleveland Park condominium, and following the closing were gifted by their Realtor with a popcorn maker, three types of popcorn and several different popcorn seasonings. Our colleague still mentions the gift, some six months later. Why? Not because it had a high-dollar value or was something she couldn’t have easily bought for herself, but because it was thoughtful, sweet and unnecessary. The agent had already made her commission, yet she went out of her way afterward to purchase something for our colleague, making the agent and the service our colleague received all the more memorable.
So the next time you’re on vacation and try a local specialty you really like and think would suit a client, bring some back for them. Or say you make jewelry, do woodworking or moonlight as an Etsy artist in your spare time -- make something just for a client, bring it with you to your next meeting and tell them you thought they’d like the item. Such acts can be truly meaningful to the recipient.
Be in touch
Of course, much of your interaction with a business customer is going to be about, well, business rather than gifts and entertainment. Here, too, though, the smaller gestures can add up.
Don’t let more than a few days go by without connecting with a client in some way, even if there’s no pressing matter to discuss or decision for them to make. Ensure you stay top-of-mind with them by picking up the phone and calling to see how they’re doing or if there’s anything they need from you. Just hearing your voice may make a busy client recall that they wanted to ask or tell you something they would have otherwise forgotten. And who knows? It may lead to an expansion of existing work, or to a referral for new business.
When a client reaches out to you, make sure you take the advice from our first tip and get back to them quickly. Even if, for example, they email you asking a question you’ve already answered several times, or telling you something you already know, get back to them as soon as possible. A customer should never feel like they’re just one of many others standing in a queue. It’s your job as a business professional to make them feel like they are your only client. To that end, return that missed call and/or respond to that email as soon as you can.
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