04 Nov Are you listening to your clients?
I went to see a potential client last week and the first thing she said to me was, “my current IT company just doesn’t listen”
Strong words! I didn’t quite believe it as “sometimes” those are the tell tale signs of a demanding client and “sometimes” clients don’t listen to our advice! So I asked in reply, “in what way do they not listen?”
She responded saying that “every time she raises a problem they disagree with her over the phone and that fixing one problem just creates another one. Only then to be told that those new problems were either there in the first place OR that it was something that she was doing wrong!”
She then told me that she was also forced to pay to replace each piece of network equipment one-by-one until they got to the cause of the problem…which they didn’t!
I mean, c’mon…first rule of customer service is “never tell a client they are wrong!”, the second is “never lie to a client” and the third is “always own up when you have made a mistake”.
It’s probably the worst customer and technical service I have heard from a client about another IT Company for a long time so no wonder she was so unhappy with her existing IT Support!
She was just so fed up and more worrying, she couldn’t trust the advise she was getting.
So I thought are we listening to our clients and are you in turn listening to yours?
A very honest question, one that has taken us some years to really fine tune and get to the bottom of. It was only a few years ago that we weren’t listening to our clients and we were just making assumptions about them and about us.
So one of the first positive changes that we made was to add to our to our survey emails three questions that have really helped us. I would recommend this change to any service company who uses automated survey emails:
(1) “What aren’t we doing that we could be doing for you?”
(2) “What could we be doing better?”
(3) “Would you recommend us?”
Powerful questions that at times have been a real kick in the gut. But we needed that kick!
We have found these questions and honest answers invaluable in helping us understand what our clients want, what they need, where we can improve and what we just aren’t doing that we should be.
From this we have then trained our staff internally with how to really communicate (and sometimes over-communicate) with clients simply, using our internal systems and especially over the phone.
It has really helped us transform our company into a support and customer service business.
From sales enquiry through to billing
Client frustrations are natural but if you plug those holes immediately by asking the right questions, answering appropriately, setting and meeting expectations from the start and communicating to the best of your ability then you can always be confident that you are listening to your clients.
No matter what, right from the initial sales enquiry, quoting, all the way though to completing work and even billing. Be responsible and trustworthy to your client. If you tell them you will do something, do it and then follow up with an update telephone call. If you can’t get through, leave a voicemail and then send them a quick email.
If you stick to the principle of communicating at all times as speedily and as efficiently as possible, then you are on the roads to delivering a successful “listening service” to your clients.
What immediate changes can you make to improve?
One of our successes was being able to employ a great team who champion and channel these messages. However, even for smaller companies with little or no staff, subtle changes can be made.
I already mentioned above about including three questions to survey response emails. That is a fantastic and must change that we know has helped us and will help you with visibility.
However, a question that we ask our clients during Account Management meetings is again, sometimes an invitation to another kick in the gut! But, if you don’t know what’s happening with your client then they will eventually leave you and go to a competitor.
So however hard it is (we actually now enjoy being told what we’re doing wrong!) make this another change and ask your clients the following the next time you see or speak to them (ideally see, it’s good to see them vent and be honest in front of you):
“Let’s pretend we’re sat here a year from now and we’re reviewing our progress and the value of our relationship to you. What do I have to do or help you do for you to say, ‘Without question, of all the people I have ever turned to for help and services, yours has made the most positive impact on my business’ and for that to happen, what would I have to do between now and then?”
You will be surprised what a revelation the response will be and then you must act on it. Isn’t being told where you’re failing better than your client just leaving or you remaining stuck with your head in the clouds?
What are you afraid of…the truth?!!
Go back to them once you have made the changes they very kindly explained to you and then tell them what you did, why you did it and how much their feedback helped you improve on your service to them and to your other clients.
Sometimes, a little thank you voucher from Amazon wouldn’t go amiss either!
Do you know a business that wants to listen to their clients better? Is your service supplier (IT or otherwise) not listening to you? If so, share this article with both of them!