No matter what your industry is—if there are human beings on any end of the transaction—you will always, always, always need to nail your customer service to succeed. I follow a set of three rules religiously to take question marks completely out of the equation, so that my clients can absolutely depend on me to do a stellar job, every single time. Here are my three keys to customer service:
1- Be Relentlessly Consistent
I once heard a mentor say that she was “relentlessly consistent”, and it’s stuck with me to this day. Knowing what you are going to get every single time is a key component of the client trust relationship. In the way that I handle billing, the timeframe in which I respond to communications, the quality of my work, and my reliability in meeting deadlines are never an unknown factor for my client. It’s a trust relationship that is built up over time, after doing business with the same caliber of professionalism over and over and over again. It’s a hefty investment in time and attention to detail, but it pays dividends in spades in my client relationships.
2- Under-promise and Over-deliver
It was incredibly tempting, when I was just starting out and eager to prove myself, to promise my clients the moon and acquiesce to every request. It was with time that I learned the invaluable art of saying “no” when I had to. Any good impression that you might make by offering more than your competitors will quickly evaporate the second you fail to deliver. Besides, the best clients aren’t impressed by promises, because they’ve been in business long enough to know that people often overestimate their own abilities and underestimate the time it takes to complete a project. What will impress them every time, however, is if you are open and honest about what you can reasonably accomplish within the parameters at the very beginning of the conversation. Then, you leave yourself enough space to blow them away if you exceed their expectations, and also for absorbing a few hiccups without damaging your reputation.
3- Deal Fairly, Honestly, and With Integrity, No Matter What
This should be a given, but I still come across business owners who seem to think that their clients prefer to be assured that everything is fine when the ship is on fire rather than ask to change course. By watching others mistakes, I know that an exaggeration ALWAYS catches up with you, and that a lack of integrity is the surest thing to sink a business in the long run. Quick wins gained by dishonesty, withholding the truth or misleading the client will always be paid back with interest in terms of opportunity and business lost when the mistreated clients tells everyone they know. The biggest city in the world isn’t big enough to keep shady business practices a secret for long, because if there’s one thing that everybody in the world loves to talk about and share, it’s when they’ve been mistreated. It’s simply human nature.