Five Customer Service Processes You Know You Should Do (But Don’t)
If you’re like most business owners, you would agree that if there was one thing you wish you could have more of in your job, it’s time. If you made a list right now of all the things you should be doing, but don’t do because of a lack of time, well, it would be a long list. In fact, you might not even have time to make the list!
As much as our job depends on customer service, it’s unfortunate that we sometimes don’t even have time for that. It’s not about the actual work you do for customers; it’s the actual “customer service” side of the work.
Good customer service is probably THE most important part of a successful business. But let’s talk about that monster in the closet: the things we know we should do, but often don’t.
Following are five customer service activities you know you need to do, but you just probably aren’t:
1. You Only Have One Chance to Make a First Impression.
Or so the saying goes. So why do you not spend time and energy to create a reliable customer onboarding process for customers signing up for regular or repeat services? The beginning of a relationship is where you set the tone for how the entire relationship will go. Things may change and adapt, but the effort needed to alter the pattern after that initial period is so much greater than if you had just taken the time to think through the process in the beginning.
2. Expectations Equal Perceptions.
It’s critical to set and manage expectations for customers, even when those expectations aren’t always comfortable. By nature, people who work in service industries are people pleasers, and typically go out of their way to make customers happy. This can often lead to out-of-control expectations, and unrealistic expectations only lead to disappointment. If you don’t live up to the unrealistic expectations you allow your customers to maintain, you will never do a good enough job. Never.
When it comes to setting expectations:
- Be honest and explain why.
- Let the customer be part of the process. Set an expectation that works for both of you.
- Provide a timeline.
- Set expectations both verbally and in writing.
- Consistently reinforce the expectations you’ve set.
- Ask the customer how they feel or their reaction to that timeline and goals. That last one is key. Talk through things with the customer, understand where they are coming from, their fears around progress, and the things that are crucial for them to determine success.
3. No One Likes a Yes Man.
This one is straight forward, but business owners — and those who are people-pleasers and want to make a customer happy — can fall victim to saying yes or agreeing to whatever demand or expectation the client has, even when we know it will be unrealistic to achieve.
When you agree to something with a customer that you know isn’t in their best interest, isn’t needed, or isn’t a service you typically provide (or provide well), you are not doing the job they hired you to do. They hired you to be the expert at what you do, so helping a customer understand why their request isn’t realistic or necessary moves things in a more productive direction.
Customer service is not about being a yes man; it’s is about having your customer’s best interest at heart. Sometimes this means you need to tell them things they don’t want to hear. And other times it means you need to say no.
4. Ask for Referrals.
Some customers will proactively refer you to everyone they know. They like your work, enjoy working with you, and want to share their great experience with others. Asking for referrals doesn’t have to be dirty or sleazy. You’ll even find in most circumstances your customer is happy to recommend you to someone else.
If you cringe at the idea of asking for a referral, consider the popularity of sites like Yelp and HomeAdvisor. Why do people spend the time to leave reviews online? Because many people love sharing insight with others; they want to be seen as experts.
However, for some customers, this kind of open sharing and referral-giving isn’t second nature. They don’t make referrals, but not because they’re less satisfied than those who do refer business to you, but because they just don’t think about it.
Some customers may not refer you because they simply don’t know who might make a great lead for you. Be specific in the type of referral that makes the most sense.
For example, instead of: If you know anyone we could help, we’d be thrilled if you pass our name along… Say: If you know anyone who needs [specific service you provide], we’d be thrilled if you pass our name along…
Or even better: If you know a building or facility manager who is in need of [service you provide], we’d be thrilled if you pass our name along…
Consistent reporting helps customers see how your work directly drives their goals, and it’s a great way to grow an existing customer into a bigger customer in the future. For residential customers, review a summary of the work, before and after photos (if possible), and information about maintenance going forward. For commercial customers, you may also report on various system metrics to demonstrate that you’re paying attention to all aspects of their system and are a true partner in preventing issues.
Creating Customer Service Processes
Creating a process around each of these five tactics that can easily be followed by every team member ensures consistency in your services. Plus, a process turns those “things I should do, but don’t have time for,” into things that actually get done. Not only will transitioning to “we do” improve your customer service overall — it will give you some time back to focus on those other things you know you should do, but often don’t.
Article originally written by Laura Petrolino, chief client officer at Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She also is a weekly contributor to the award-winning PR blog, Spin Sucks.