How do you separate your business from the noise? Businesses are trying to increase revenues, grow the client base, gain market share. Most businesses everywhere understand, with few exceptions, their competitors provide similar or identical products, solutions and services. Successful businesses have realized they can significantly differentiate themselves by the way they care for their customers and clients.
At BidPrime, as we launched in 2009, the entire company was involved in the client support aspect of the business. We understood early on that recycling clients was not an effective formula for growing a young business. Along with our business development and marketing strategies, we efforted to create a solution whereby existing clients would be important advocates. Best in industry client support would be at the foundation. Today, the same mindset exists. Always remember, good news travels fast, bad news travels faster.
Stephen Hetzel, our co-Founder and COO, summarizes BidPrime’s approach to client care, “As a team, we are constantly evaluating and looking for ways to improve the client experience. Regardless of our best in industry client retention and confidence we have in our hiring process and management of our Client Support function, we realize that client satisfaction is the essential metric for our business. At the end of the day, nothing is more important.”
The reality is that you will not please everyone all of the time. Each company will likely have a dissatisfied client at some point. However, that does not relieve you of your responsibility to meet your agreed to support actions, contractual obligations, and terms and conditions. If a client should have a negative experience, how do you answer, “Did we take each and every reasonable step to ensure the client is satisfied?” If not, did you clearly communicate with the client on what was done and why decisions were made? Remember, as with any personal or professional relationship, compromise can be your friend. In addition, do not be liberal with your interpretation of what is “reasonable”.
Strategies for effective client support:
1. Culture. Client support has to be an expressed and acknowledged priority for everyone in the organization. Throughout the company, the priorities have to be clearly defined, reinforced, and repeated. Regardless of an employee’s defined role in the company, it has to be clearly communicated and understood that all are responsible, in some way, for the client experience. If an employee suggests, “I work in abc123, client satisfaction isn’t in the job description for me and my department”, you have a problem.
2. Investment. Cheap client support is cheap. In addition to leadership creating a culture that fosters a dedication to client support, you have to make a financial investment. In your budget your business will have to provide for the tools, technology, and people to execute your vision for high level client support.
3. Hire right. Start with the reality that not everyone is cut out to work in client support. Hire slow. During the hiring process, along with the usual prudent screening process, test the applicant, trust your instincts, do not be minimalistic on training. Also important is to have clearly defined objective criteria for when a new hire is ready to work with clients. If you bring on a new employee and quickly come to the realization they are not cutting it, despite your decisive efforts to remedy the situation, admit your mistake and move on. Your clients, and likely the others in your business, will appreciate you being proactive.
4. Different ways to communicate when providing customer support:
Communication. Reach out. Listen. Act. Follow up. As much as any idea covered in this blog, this point most deserves its own in-depth analysis. Our frontline client support staff know their clients, their businesses, their needs. Along with only hearing from their vendors at renewal time, one of the more common complaints we hear from new clients, who have moved over from our competitors, is the revolving door of client support people with whom they had to interact.
Reach out. Don’t spend your days only reacting to issues. Also, it’s a fool’s errand to wait until two weeks before contract expiration to “check in” with a client. Different people prefer to communicate in different ways. As a result, you have to ensure clients can reach you, and vice versa, depending on the client’s chosen method of communication.
Listen: The old adage, “don’t hear, listen”. Train your staff to be alert for passive feedback from a client. The most effective tool for helping a client and for understanding a client’s opinion of your service is by taking the steps to contact them and listening to what they have to say. We utilize kind of a three-pronged approach to communicating with clients. Our favorite, and the most important, are the “organic” communications between our clients and company. For example, a client calls in for guidance on pursuing a particular contract, a client needs bid documents for a specific bid / RFP, etc… Of course, these direct interactions help to build the one-on-one relationships referenced earlier and offer opportunities to improve your service to a client.
Along with this mode, our client support staff are enthusiastic in periodically contacting clients directly via telecom or email. Often, these communications are simply to ensure we are exceeding the clients expectations.
In addition, we have formulated a proven schedule we use, for example, to send important account-related information, suggestions for improving the client’s experience, and useful newsworthy info. To assist in creating a similar process, you can consider using an automation tool to assist.
Act: Clients will remember how you treated them. Say what you will do for a client and then do what you said! At many businesses there can be a conflict in interest between customer care and other departments. Sure, the folks in your client support area may be champions for your clients, however, have you created a culture whereby everyone steers clear of an “us versus them” mentality?
Follow up: Don’t leave the client in the dark. Remember, as issues are being addressed and resolved, communicate with the client on the status, ensure they know the outcome, and check-in to confirm all is well.
5. Advocate. As with elsewhere in your company, doing right by your clients is the number one priority. If you are hiring the right people, your client support staff will overtly be champions for your clients and will be steadfast in ensuring client needs are addressed promptly and effectively. This mindset starts at the top of your organization.
Providing outstanding client support doesn’t happen by accident or luck. In addition, it will not 100% ensure you retain a client at renewal time. That being said, by investing in, and making a dedicated commitment that resonates with everyone in your organization towards client happiness, you will help your clients and staff have a more enjoyable experience and succeed.
To discuss, or for more information about our company, call 888.808.5356 or visit BidPrime.