After forty frustrating minutes at my nearby office supply store, I left without making a purchase. Two sales team members showed a lack of product knowledge—but even worse, a complete lack of customer courtesy. They didn’t get my order for 200 custom-printed note cards.
Their competitor across town did.
It was out of my way to drive there. But, Edward had great product knowledge, was patient with my questions, and best of all, he exceeded my expectations by e-mailing additional proofs and expediting my order. And he thanked me. I will do business with him again because of his exceptional customer service and courtesy.
In today’s competitive business arena, superior customer and client courtesy will make a business or organization stand out from the others.
Your “customer” may be a client at your financial institution, a patient at your medical clinic, or a tuition-paying parent at your private school or university. Research shows that 68 percent of these customers are savvy enough to take their business elsewhere if customer courtesy is poor.
Here are ten powerful, simple courtesies that will strengthen your client relationships over the phone and in person. You will garner loyalty, repeat business, and referrals from others.
On the phone:
1. Be efficient and friendly. Answer by the second ring. Make sure the tone of your voice says, “I’m happy to help you.” versus sending the message that you’ve been interrupted.
2. Use the client’s name in conversation. It’s more personal, and people like to hear their own name. Err on the side of formality with titles. Use Mr. and Ms. with a surname unless you are already on a first-name basis.
3. Actively listen to effectively respond. Really listen to what the client is saying before you respond. What are his wants and needs?
4. Empathize and be quick and attentive if there is a problem or concern. Instead of saying, “I’m sorry, it’s company policy,” tell the client what you can do to remedy the situation. Then, follow through with what you said you would do. This shows the client you really care.
5. Show appreciation. Before you end a conversation, ask if there is anything else you can assist with. If appropriate, express sincere gratitude for the client’s patronage. Allow the client to hang up first.
Connecting in person:
6. Give a professional and friendly image. When a client arrives to your office or work area, immediately look up from your task or computer screen and acknowledge the client’s presence with a “good morning” or “good afternoon.” Include an extra pleasantry such as “How are you today?” If you know the client’s name, be sure to use it.
7. Maintain good eye contact. It shows respect, and shows you’re listening.
8. Show the same respect to everyone, no matter their age, gender, race, ethnicity, or financial position.
9. Follow up. Your business will stand out if you send a follow-up e-mail after an important client meeting or a handwritten thank you note to a client who just made a large purchase. A Washington, D.C. online boutique that sells women’s designer shoes sends a handwritten thank you note with each order they fill. My new veterinarian sent a handwritten note to thank me for becoming a new client.
Go the distance:
10. Run an extra mile for every client, every time. Take time to extend yourself in some way to make a positive, lasting impression. I will never forget the restaurant server who purchased a lint roller—at his own expense—and discreetly delivered it to my table in a gift bag after he learned that the restaurant’s white “lint-less” cloth napkins left lint on my black slacks.
When you make legendary client service your goal, your good manners and courtesies will make your clients feel that their business is valued and appreciated. You can be sure I’ll contact Edward again for office supplies