Most companies promise 'excellent customer service' and will position their uniqueness by this notion, however, how many actually deliver on this promise, or in fact over-deliver?
Excellent customer service these days is a given; we all expect it. This quality simply gets you into the game these days. Secondly, its simply not enough to differentiate yourself from the rest of the competition. Customer service needs to be something much more effective, demonstrable and above all tangible. Thats why Im keen for you to explore and develop what I refer to as the client experience.
So why is the client experience so important? You see from the very moment a potential client first makes an enquiry, to the time at which they receive the end result; you and your company are on trial. Therefore you must always aim to create the optimum client experience.
I believe there are three key areas that you, as a business owner must focus on, to deliver a consistent client experience. These are as follows:
- Before the sale;
- During the sale, and;
- After the sale
So lets discuss each of stage in detail.
Before the sale
In todays fast paced world, we are confronted with more choices than ever before. Or to put it another way, your prospective client has many more choices than ever before.
So keeping this in mind, you need to create the ultimate client experience from the very moment someone makes an initial enquiry with your business. This affords you a tremendous opportunity to make a real impact on the prospect, from the very start.
Lets imagine the conversation thats going on inside your potential clients head. They might feel wary, sceptical and/or threatened. Who knows, maybe your prospect has dealt with someone from your industry in the past, and was promised all manner of help that didnt materialise. The fact is, you have a tremendous opportunity to re-set your prospects perception of you, your business and the results you can provide from the moment they make that first initial contact.
You see, whilst the competition might follow-up an enquiry with, say, a standard letter and/or put a brochure in the post; you wont offer much more. So here are two very powerful strategies I want you to adopt:
- Offer an education up front
- Treat the prospect as if they are already a client
I believe that as a society as a whole, we have all become very good at filtering or simply ignoring the many marketing messages that come our way, each and every day. Particularly those messages that do not speak to us on a personal level. So one way to ensure your message cuts through all of this clutter, is to offer a tremendous education up front. That is, rather than using a very sales orientated message, you begin to educate your audience from the very start, as to how you can appreciate their concerns and frustrations. You begin to offer some valuable insight that will enable them to have much greater confidence in buying from you.
So before any transaction has taken place use every opportunity to demonstrate your expertise.
The second part of this strategy involves treating the prospect as if they are already a client. Simply put, because you anticipate gaining their business at some stage, you dont hold back on the initial advice and guidance youre able to provide. Now I dont believe one moment you give it all away, after all you have a business to run!
However, because there is an expectation - that in time - the prospect will turn into a client, you treat them as one and the same. Its really a shift in your mindset; because you anticipate the prospects business at some point, you ensure you offer the best guidance and insight from the very start.
Again, notice how both these concepts go far beyond simply following up an enquiry with a standard letter, email or telephone call. Ultimately people buy from people they like, and so this approach will do wonders for your PR!
During the sale
Building on the above concept, its important to see how you can offer a better client experience during the sale. Now how you do this will depend on what you offer, however, here is one very simply strategy you can implement. I call this the Added-Value Ladder.
Simply put, you need to plot every interaction you have with a client during the delivery of your product or service, and then see how youre able to offer greater value at each stage.
If youre stuck for ideas, I would urge you to not worry so much about the how at this stage, that is, how you are going to offer this added value. For the time being, concentrate on the what i.e. what can you bring to the course of the transaction. For example during the course of delivering your product or service, where are the typical pain points for your client?
Let your mind come up with all manner of opportunities and then see which are the most practical and cost-effective for your business.
After the sale
Finally, how can you add more value to your clients experience after the sale?
Now this is where many business owners fail to capitalise and often miss out.
You see your client never really buys your product or service; they buy the result of that product or service. Or to put it another way, they are buying an outcome. They will have engaged your services for the purposes of gaining a solution to a problem they have. This being the case, its critical that you follow-up after the sale.
Again this small shift in how you approach customer service, will present you with so many opportunities. For example, you may be in a position to offer a cross or up-sell to a complimentary product or service.
So look at how you approach your after sales service, or for that matter, look at how your industry or sector approaches this. Do you simply deliver the product or service, and then leave the client to it? Do you keep in regular contact after the sale, and maybe offer additional help? Again you need to be mindful of what you feel the market would be most receptive to. This is not a strategy whereby you consistently harass the client for more custom.
So having explored each stage of the clients experience i.e. before the sale, during the sale, and after the sale; see how you can now bring greater value to each step.
Many a business has gone to the wall in recent times, and I believe much of it was due to an expectation that regardless of the service provided, the customer was always going to be there. Today, more than ever before, we have so many choices and options. Or to put it another way, your potential client has many more options and businesses competing for his or her attention. Therefore if you want to get noticed, and ultimately position your company as the preferred choice, it all starts with providing an incredible client experience.
Andrew Ludlam is the owner of Maverick Marketing Consultancy, and is recognised as an expert on advanced marketing strategy and tactics. As a marketing consultant, trainer, copywriter he has advised many hundreds of business owners one-to-one, and many more have attended his private training programmes. Andrew also publishes a fortnightly newsletter which has some 2,000 subscribers. Andrew has recently published Maverick Marketing, a very practical, no-nonsense guide to business growth, for more details please visit Maverick Marketing Consultancy
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