Customer service surrounds us in our daily lives. From the morning stop to order your coffee, to the person accepting your toll on the drive into work, customer service is an inescapable aspect of our day-to-day lives. Moreover, each experience we have plays a critical role in informing our opinion of the business or organization at hand – and nowhere is this more true than in the enterprise services market, where customers expect high-touch, superior service at each turn.
We all enjoy compliments. It’s nice to know you’ve provided good service and received a good review. You might even get a hearty “Good job!” from your boss. But you’re not the only one. Elsewhere, there are other people selling similar products and getting similar reviews. They’re your competition.
So how does a business differentiate itself in the B2B market? What separates the good from the better?
Sometimes, our first instinct is to fall back on clichéd but true customer service maxims. We challenge each other to surprise and delight our customers. Dazzle them, even. While we’re at it, let’s throw in professional, competent, friendly, prompt, and resourceful. These abstractions are great, but, put into practice, what do they really mean?
Here’s what one might do instead. Ask yourself: What action will make my service better than good?
For ideas on small habits or day-to-day tasks that seek to provide insight into better customer service, look no further than any number of easily accessible blogs. But for us here – we’re after one big thing that affects the relationship between you and your customer. A single action that plants the seed of better customer service.
Consider these two examples:
● You’ve been in business with a specific customer for seven years. You’re good friends, in fact. In a couple recent instances, you’ve entered their product order a day or two late. It hasn’t undermined their project deadlines, yet. They’ll understand if you shuffle them back a bit while you’re chasing down a new lead, right? The depth of your relationship will weather a small bump here and there.
● Self-service portals are a fine way to help customers find answers for themselves. It not only gives them autonomy for support, it cuts costs as well. Write up a wiki and you’ll shave off time you would otherwise spend answering the same questions repeatedly. In fact, why not funnel as much traffic as possible through that site? If you push everyone to the portal first, goes the logic, you get to spend more time prospecting and selling.
Good intentions abound in both situations. However, what begins as efforts to build a client base and improve efficiency actually ends in poorer quality of service. So, what action can turn these situations into better service?
Court your customers
Courting. That’s it in a word. Court your customers.
Yes, it’s a broad action, but in my view, completely actionable. For example, there are myriad smaller actions one can take to accomplish this. Our focus here is the mindset on personal interactions and the ways a high-touch experience can exceed expectations and make customers happier.
It’s important to remember that interactions in B2B often involve more than two individuals, which is different than most B2C transactions. In the B2B world, teams from both sides come together to complete projects. Since the customer’s team invests considerable time and money in working with your business, they expect a deeper level of commitment and trust in return.
I encourage you to build and cultivate that trust. Challenge yourself to do it with considerate actions that come from a place of focus on personal interactions. In my view, one should always work towards putting a human touch in every step of a business’ customer service – and it goes without saying, the results will speak for themselves.
In answering the question posed above about which actions to take to improve customer service, we’ve laid out a straightforward, time-tested concept that can help any business stand out. Focusing on personal interactions with customers not only wins new clients, but also cultivates the spark in long-standing relationships.
Simply put, courting clients at all times will make any business’ customer service better than good.
Please join us in the upcoming weeks at the annual Cisco Live! Event in San Diego. Visit us in Booth #1124 on June 7-11, 2015. We will be sharing the impacts and innovations from the variety of clients we have across many industries and regions, and conducting a drawing for an Apple Watch at the event as well – so sign up today!