CUSTOMER SERVICE | By Julie Britt
Show Your Clients How Important They Are
Offering superior customer service will help you take your practice to new heights.
Do you know if you’re providing
the kind of customer service
that will keep your clients
and prospects satisfied enough to keep
coming back to you and to send more
business your way?
In their new book, The Customer
Rules: The 14 Indispensable, Irrefutable
and Indisputable Qualities of the Greatest Service Companies in the World, C.
Britt Beemer and Robert L. Shook offer
tips for developing a culture of superb
customer service inspired by their research
on companies that have achieved lasting
customer loyalty. Beemer is founder
and CEO of America’s Research Group
(ARG), a consumer research firm. His
other books include It Takes a Prophet to
Make a Profit and Predatory Marketing.
Shook is a bestselling author whose books
include Longaberger and The Pep Talk.
During 29 years of research for industry leaders, including General Electric,
JCPenney, Sealy and Warren Buffett’s
Berkshire Hathaway companies, Beemer
says he discovered that what sets such
companies apart is their desire to serve
their customers and their unwillingness
to accept the status quo. “As far as my
coauthor and I are concerned, unless the
customer is the focal point of all its activities, a company is headed in the wrong
direction,” Beemer says.
Such a high level of service will not
drain profits. Instead, earnings will
increase, thanks to repeat business,
increased orders and referrals from loyal
customers. “This will result in lower
customer-acquisition costs and a healthy
bottom line,” Beemer says.
The first step in developing a service
culture is to hire the right people and
make sure all of them know their job is
serving the customer, regardless of their
title or job description, the authors write.
That service attitude must start with you.
If you place your employees’ needs above
Selling a service
is different from
selling a product.
your own, they will treat customers the
same way, Beemer and Shook say.
The next step is to sell your employees
on your practice and services. Clients
will know whether your employees are
satisfied with their jobs and are eager to
work for you. Disgruntled or apathetic
employees will repel customers.
In addition, make sure your employees know that treating customers with
respect is a major tenet of your culture.
Another quality of a top service company is its reflection of small-town values,
no matter how large it grows. An ARG
survey shows that most consumers think
large companies are less interested in
their customers than smaller companies,
and that large companies treat customers
like a number, the authors say.
Successful companies offer a positive
customer experience before, during and
after the sale, the authors write. Advertising influences customers, so make sure
your ads are accurate and that you can
actually provide the services you promote. Customers tend to believe what
business owners say, so put yourself in
your ads and commercials and reveal
your personality and character. Think of
Dave Thomas, the founder of Wendy’s,
who became a household name when he
appeared in commercials for the fast-food
chain. Use quality materials in your ads
and direct mail pieces, because customers
will associate poor quality materials with
Keep it personal
If you’ve built a thriving practice, you’ve
probably invested in technology such as
a website and a voicemail system. Those
can be timesavers and ensure that your
customers reach your company and get
the information they need around the
clock, but technology should not be a
substitute for personal contact, Beemer
and Shook say. Don’t sacrifice personal
service and a human touch for efficiency.
Also, remember that a client’s time
is as valuable as yours, so don’t keep
him on hold when he calls and don’t
keep him waiting when he visits you.
Respond to calls quickly and handle
Keep in mind that selling a service is
different from selling a product, but that
products and services work together,
Beemer and Shook say. Offering a
superior product with lousy service won’t
satisfy customers, and exemplary service
won’t make up for an inferior product.
Your service must extend beyond
offering competitive prices, the authors
say. If your customers come to you
mainly because you are the most cost-effective provider, they will remain loyal
only until someone else offers the same
products or services for less money.
Differentiate yourself by knowing your
client’s needs and providing solutions
tailored to him.
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