While we are in constant battle of getting the client’s much coveted attention, we are tempted to bet on over-promising deliverables as our only weapon to win. Yet, we wonder as an organization why man-hours are exhausted and still clients are disappointed. This is because over commitment is short-term thinking and it is not sustainable. Providing more value to client is different from promising the moon and the stars. Don’t mix them up.
Based on Gartner’s Research, “compared to branding, communications, marketing and sales activities, customer service and support has a 10 to 25 percent greater impact on customer loyalty and revenue.” That is why even if this issue has been there for quite some time, it is still one of the major issues confronting businesses.
So how do we narrow, if not remove, the gap?
Here are five practices on how we can make our clients happy without burning our resources unnecessarily:
1. Begin with the end in mind
Let us put it this way, the client contacted you because they needed your services. So you have to know exactly what their objective and pain points are.
“The first step in exceeding your customer’s expectations is to know those expectations.” – Roy Hollister Williams
According to Gallup, there are four levels that we need to satisfy to meet client expectation. As we go a level higher, the closer the bond we establish with the client and the more brand loyalty we gain.
Accuracy – as described by Gallup, this is the bare minimum. Simply put, output should be free from mistakes or errors. Examples here include wrong data provided, misspelled copies/content and inconsistent information, which badly hurts business performance.
Availability – client request does not end with a good product or service. They expect you to be there anytime they need you and provide a prompt and quick response.
Partnership and Advice will be discussed separately in item #4.
After knowing your customer’s expectations, the real challenge is how to respond to those expectations in a way that aligns with your organization’s business goals including controlling costs and increasing profitability. Remember, we are not running a charitable institution here. Balance is key.
2. If it isn’t written down, it didn’t happen
Most of the time, after that much awaited shaking of hands, details of the discussion will be forgotten. Too many times I’ve encountered asking myself, racking my brain, if we did agree on the existing client’s claim. And since I don’t have a proof that it is not included on the agreed scope, I usually end up on the losing end.
So other than the contract, make sure that the client signs off the details of deliverables, timeline, process, resources, KPIs. The more detailed it is, the better. And as you move along the project, minutes of the meetings, additional requests and iterations should be documented and shared as well.
3. Assumption is the mother of all mess-ups
“A big step towards maintaining your sanity in customer service is helping customers understand what they can expect from you before, during and after they contact you.” – 5 Tips for Managing Customer Expectations by Alan Berkson
I remember this client who requested for additional web pages to be included on the website launch. We agreed on it and then when I emailed the minutes of the meeting and communicated the change in launch date, it took him by surprise. As a project manager, additional request automatically needs additional man-hour resources, apparently, most clients do not realize this. What is basic and obvious to you as a provider doesn’t automatically mean it’s the same with your client. So communication is key.
First and foremost, let your client know that each request requires timeline, and possibly additional budget. Second, let them know the status of your work because guessing is what they hate the most. Provide milestones on a weekly basis (this can be shorter or longer depending on the nature of your project) so that they can visualize the progress. Third, be honest. There are a number of reasons why your project will be pushed back. While customers don’t like delays, they will appreciate your honesty just as long as you have recommendations on how to address them.
Another important step that we usually take for granted is the turnover process. All the information that the sales team got from the client plus the agreed deliverables should be completely communicated and turned over to the operations team who will implement the project. Lack of internal communication usually costs the company rework and delay.
4. Improving Partnership
As mentioned in item number 1, Accuracy and Availability are basic client needs. Providing more value to client requires empathy, thus the need for the next two.
Partnership – when we partner with another organization, we treat them as our own. Thus, customer service should not be considered as a person or department alone but part of the culture which should be embraced in all levels of the organization. Best way of implementing this is putting ourselves in their shoes and asking the question, “Am I happy with how they collaborate and answer our needs?”
Advice – since we should be the experts in this field, we are in the best position to make sure that we keep our clients informed about the best practices and industry trends. Educating customers shows them that your interest goes beyond monetary gains.
One of Propelrr’s advocacy is to provide Thought Leadership. We wanted to educate clients (both prospective and existing) that numbers should go beyond vanity metrics. And that a successful Digital Marketing Strategy depends on a Digital Marketing Framework grounded on Channels, Content, Analytics, and Infrastructure all-embracing a Digital Thinking mindset.
Relationship is important to clients. Make sure it’s part of your goal.
5. Let the Data Drive You
“Proactive organizations focus on metrics that are driven by business goals, further enabling them to be responsive to customer requirements.” – Vicki T. Tambellini and Timothy S.K. Liu
To be successful these days, you have to exceed customer expectation. Here, we should go beyond providing them what they think and what we think they need. This is where being data driven comes in because data will give you the real (and almost always painful truths) about how the market thinks and what it says about you.
The bad news is this has been around for quite sometime.
However, the good news is, not a lot of companies have embraced this idea and took it as an advantage.
Your client is a reflection of your business. You cannot expect a happy client when you are hurting as an organization. Fix what’s inside and the rest will follow.
Now, it’s up to you to act on it. Propelrr can tell you how. Send us a message via our contact form or thru firstname.lastname@example.org