New Year’s Service Resolutions for 2011
As 2011 begins, I think it is an important time to reflect on all that has transpired over the past year and what we can all do to better ourselves. This time of year always provokes thoughts of self improvement, goal planning, and reaching personal milestones.
We tend to always take the personal approach of self-improvement and ways in which we can better ourselves in regards to the typical things such as health, relationships, financial status, and kicking bad habits. However, what we tend not to do is think about a set of New Year’s resolutions from a business standpoint and customer service perspective. Specifically, looking at ways we can better our service delivery to our clients.
There is always room for improvement when it comes to customer service. My hopes are to transcend the typical New Year’s resolutions from the personal perspective to the customer service perspective. So, without further adieu, here are my New Year’s resolutions…
How We Will Provide Better Customer Service in 2011
1. Get Out There
I have talked before in this blog that we need to move away from simply using email as our main form of communication. We have gotten very far away from the good old handshake. We hide behind email as the quick way out. I hear all too often, “well, I emailed them.” This is just not cutting it anymore, as relationships are suffering and in turn customer service suffers. We cannot truly know each other by email only. In fact, even phone calls are not enough. We need to get out there.
We need to see the offices we are supporting, meet the people we service daily, and learn more about the business needs of our clients and what they need in order to be successful in their industry. I am not only talking about from an IT perspective, but we need to dig deeper into the personal perspective as well. What do our clients like to do in their free time? When are their birthdays? Where are they from? While we can certainly talk tech all day long, what people really like to talk about is themselves. I had two client meetings last week. One we talked tech and service, and the other we looked at vacation pictures. Which client do you think is going to be around for the long haul? Easy answer I think. The only way to learn this and gain a true understanding of our client base and the true health of our relationships is to get out there.
In 2011 I am going to campaign that everyone go out and meet our clients, take them out to lunch or get a coffee, and learn what we cannot possibly learn in an email or just talking tech.
2. Be Assertive and Ask the Tough Questions
Over my seven years here at Thrive I find that we tend to skirt around the always tough questions like, “Do you value our relationship?”, “What are you trying to accomplish?”, and “What do you feel we could have done better?” I find that we get surprised by clients that are unhappy and always come up with excuses in our heads of why we thought the relationship was healthy. When I look at a case by case cross section of those clients, I see the same theme over and over again. We as an organization failed to ask the tough questions, and instead just solved the smaller problem, but avoided the bigger question. We get tunnel vision around specific issues and fail to see the forest for the trees.
As examples, if a client asks for a copy of their contract, asks what are business hours are, or tells us they cannot pay their invoice right now, we need to dig deeper. Maybe the client wants to see their contract because they are not getting a service they thought they had, they want to know our business hours because they are opening a West coast office, or they cannot pay their invoices because they are about to be acquired. We tend to simply just say, “here is your contract, our hours are 8:00am – 6:00pm, and I will let finance know.” Well my friends, we just missed a golden opportunity for valuable information.
In 2011, we will be assertive and ask the follow up questions each and every time to eliminate surprises, uncover potential opportunities or service concerns, and ultimately truly understand the overall health of our business relationships.
3. Return to Needs Based Selling
As we increase our product set and suite of services, I find it amazing how many of our clients are still not sure of all the things we can provide to them. When I first started here, I was always reminded of the phrase “needs based selling.” Simply stated, if there is a need we should present it.
Far too often I hear our Engineers say a client needs more onsite time, needs a new managed firewall, needs some strategic consulting, but have failed to actually offer it to them. I am sure resolutions 1 and 2 discussed above will certainly help uncover these opportunities, but we need to be getting in front of our clients and presenting them solutions that make sense for their business and will provide a lot of value. Seems like a rather simple goal to accomplish, but we need to do a better job of it. This is not to say all of our clients will just buy and buy, but they need to know all we offer and make informed decisions based on our recommendations. The purpose here is to provide the right solutions which ultimately results in a better experience for everyone.
In summary, I think committing to these 3 basic resolutions as we enter 2011 will result in a better experience for our clients and healthier relationships. These resolutions provide a trickle down effect in order. By getting in front of our clients frequently, we can ask the tough questions, which ultimately results in the right solutions for their business and a healthy relationship with us their trusted advisor. I know what you’re thinking, seems fairly basic, but basic principles of customer service can always be improved and frequently forgotten as our days get away from us.
Happy New Year,