We know our clients are the lifeblood of our business. But sometimes we get caught in the daily grind, going days without stopping to think about them or the customer experience we are providing.
But like all relationships, if we want to nurture happy and loyal clients, the first step is making the time to ask questions, listen, and take feedback. Clients are our best source of knowledge and insights regarding the customer experience we provide, so it’s amazing how rarely we engage them to help us with this. Continual review and refinement of the customer experience is even more important for businesses that provide products and services such as financial or legal advice, because the stakes are so high for clients.
Here are four tips to help you create the best possible customer experience.
Make an impression
Remember the last time a company knocked you off your feet with their service? Chances are they did something exceptional when it was least expected, and in a moment when it was most needed. It’s the over-and-above efforts that set you apart from your competitors; the ‘moments of truth’, when clients are pleasantly surprised with their interactions with you, become emotionally invested in the company and ultimately become loyal supporters.
For example, an Agtech start-up I work with supplies remote monitoring systems to farmers, so they can measure and analyse their water tanks from anywhere at any time. In addition to providing the system, this company makes a practice of monitoring its clients’ data as well, to pick up issues the farmer may not have noticed. It is not unusual for this company to send a text message to a client in the middle of the night alerting them to a potential issue, often averting disasters. The result has been a core group of loyal clients who make numerous referrals about the company, because it exceeded their expectations and made an indelible impression.
If you haven’t already, figure out what the customer journey is for your business, where the hot spots are, and how you can provide a stellar experience for your clients when it matters most.
Empower your staff
For a business to provide a consistently exceptional customer experience, staff need to understand what their contributions are and become empowered to deliver. Building targets into staff performance plans is useful but, most importantly, the focus on customer experience needs to be shared across the organisation and built into the culture.
Train staff on what the ideal experience looks like for your business and workshop examples of best practice to bring it to life. Take the time to reflect on what role each staff member plays in contributing to a positive customer experience and what tools and support they need to do this as successfully as possible. Do client-facing staff need to free up time to check in with clients more frequently? Are there sufficient resources allocated to quickly deal with customer complaints? What changes need to be made to set your staff up for success?
Use a CRM system
If you don’t have a Customer Relationship Management system, you need one. It’s impossible to stay on top of all of your interactions with clients, their preferences, concerns and requests – particularly if you have a number of staff dealing with them on a regular basis. The quickest way to frustrate clients is by asking them a question one of your colleagues asked just a week ago, or forgetting to follow up on an important issue.
There are many CRM systems available. Find one that suits your needs and budget, and embed it across your organisation as a standard, non-negotiable business practice.
Listen and learn
Providing a high-quality experience requires more than just a conscientious effort to deliver the service you’ve always given. Clients’ needs evolve, as do competitors’ offerings. This is why it’s important to ask for feedback on what you did well and what you can do differently. It’s good practice to build a process for feedback into the operational cycle so it becomes formalised and happens regularly. It might be that you follow up with each client after milestones or give them a call to ask how they found their experience.
If you are going to ask for feedback, make sure you genuinely take it on board, and report back to clients, at the appropriate time, as to how their feedback is being used. Of course you don’t need to implement every single suggestion, but if the feedback points to common themes across a number of clients, it makes sense to try to address this in some way.
Whilst happy clients are the holy grail of any business, unhappy ones are often more forthcoming with honest feedback, and offer a wealth of insights for you to consider. Their feedback enables you to keep close to the needs of your target audience and assess the customer experience you are providing.
If your business is proactive in addressing the needs of your clients, it won’t be long before you stand out from competitors and build a loyal client base prepared to go the extra mile to recommend your business.
Mei-Ling Ho has more than 20 years of experience in strategic marketing, branding and communications. She consults to SMEs and purpose-led organisations.