Expert Panel, Forbes Coaches Council
As companies grow and expand, it’s natural that many elements become more automated and processes more “efficient”—but this can sometimes also lead to customers becoming numbers on a graph. In order to ensure that you maintain your loyal customer base, as well as gain new customers, it’s important to retain some of that humanity your business started out with.
And there’s no better place to inject more humanity than in your customer service efforts. When business owners focus on customer service, they can ensure that their customers are well taken care of and that, when issues arise, they feel their voices are heard.
To help you stay on the right track as you grow—and avoid thinking of your customers as statistics—follow these suggested steps from 13 Forbes Coaches Council experts.
1. Create An Experience
It is not just about the product or service you provide, but about the customer experience you create. Work to create an experience that makes the customer feel special. Know their name, remember their preferences and send thank you notes showing appreciation for their business. Set these up as part of the process, so as your company grows you are still able to provide that special touch. - Tameika Devine, The Possibilities Institute
2. Focus On 'HEART'
It's not what you say but how you say it and whether or not it comes from your heart. Being genuine, sincere and showing your customers you truly care is the key to great customer service. Try the "HEART" technique when a customer calls to complain. H: Hear them out and let them vent; E: Empathize genuinely with their feelings; A: Acknowledge the problem; R: Respond clearly; and T: Timeline for resolution. - Gregg Ward, The Gregg Ward Group
3. Meet With Clients Quarterly
Meet with your clients quarterly, in person. Find out what is working and what isn't working. How can you further assist with other resources in your rolodex or can you be a sounding board? Challenge them and extend their possibilities in thinking. Provide them with "brain food" to deepen your relationship as an invaluable resource. - Shelley Smith, Premier Rapport
4. Connect With Customers Outside Of The Sale
Having employees spend time listening to customers via service calls or in person listening tours can increase empathy. Getting to know customers on a more personal level makes their issues more relatable and encourages teams to become advocates for them. If you connect with customers outside of the sales transaction to show that you really care, you will build a relationship as a trusted partner. - Tracey Grove, Pure Symmetry Coaching and Consulting
5. Evaluate Human Versus Automated Transactions
As companies grow and scale, it's easy to focus on the numbers and be tempted to forget about those personalized experiences. Be weary each time you remove the human, whether it's an automated messaging system or customer checkout. While these processes can improve efficiency, they each remove a bit of humanity. Focus on the heart of your business and ask yourself, "how can we add some heart here?" - Kyle Cromer Elliott, MPA, CHES, CaffeinatedKyle.com
6. Share Customer Experience Stories
Make time for weekly storytelling to close out a team meeting. Explain how a customer complaint was collected and resolved. Share the outcome, both in terms of process changes to eliminate a repeat, as well as the customer’s reaction to the resolution. Everyone plays a role in delivering a good experience and should pay thoughtful attention to the voices describing experiences that were not top notch. - Jill Tipograph, Early Stage Careers LLC
7. Follow Up And Follow Through
You can keep clients and turnaround clients by the way you handle the relationship. Genuinely check in with clients frequently during the relationship, after the engagement is done or even months later. If clients see you as proactive, caring and empathetic, they are more likely to trust and remain loyal to you (or even recommend you). They need to feel your value and your active follow through. - Joanne Markow, GreenMason
8. Immerse Yourself In The Experience
Look at the combination of human and digital factors for your customer service experience and determine how long it takes a customer to reach a human representative. Immerse yourself in the customer service experience at your company and understand what an outstanding or not so outstanding customer experience is. The insights gained will help determine where technology has reached its limit. - Jonathan Silk, Bridge 3 LLC
9. Setup A Client Advisory Board
Select representative clients from every niche you are targeting and form an advisory board. Have your management team meet with them on a regular basis, this way you are essentially instituting a structure to make sure your clients' voices are heard continuously. This will enable your team members to put themselves in the clients' shoes much more easily, and your services will keep a human touch. - Marina Cvetkovic, The Peak Alliance
10. Understand Your Customers
To achieve customer understanding, companies must listen to customers (surveys, online reviews, data, etc.), characterize them (create personas) and empathize with them (walk in their shoes, create journey maps). You can't transform something you don't understand, so you've got to take the time to do these three things! - Annette Franz, CX Journey Inc.
11. Don't Focus On Speed-Based KPIs
Your customers are people, so treat them as such. Avoid customer service KPIs that focus on speed. Instead, measure satisfaction and reward your team for quality service. Spend time developing a quality, consistent and integrated omni-channel experience to distinguish yourself as truly customer centric. - Mark Savinson, Strategy to Revenue
12. Check In Via Phone
While technology is a tool that offers your customers convenience, a simple check-in by phone offers your customer the human touch. Even if you don't reach your customer and you get their voicemail, that's okay! They will know you went the extra mile to find out if they are satisfied. Leave a message and say, "just calling to see if you're satisfied, and if there is anything else we can do." - Susan K. Wehrley, BIZremedies
13. Act Like A Small Business
One of my first jobs was at Dino's Pizza where the owner knew just about every person that entered the restaurant. On a given day you could see the owner cooking, working the bar and talking with patrons every week. Have that same attitude: Be willing to clean up, serve and sit with your clients. Treat your company like a great, one-person local restaurant and live with your people and clients. - John M. O'Connor, Career Pro Inc.
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