As business owners, we’re no strangers to the infamous phrase, “The customer is always right!”
We all know, of course, that this phrase is more of a gray area than a black and white rule. It’s often used to solve a customer service issue that has taken a negative turn, or to avoid an unpleasant interaction later on. What if, however, there was a more proactive way to handle this?
Customer Communication is Key
In my 18 years of deploying surveys for clients, the number one complaint across the board is this:
Not enough communication.
Whether your goal is to delight your client, provide better service, or simply get fewer complaints, you’ll need to have a plan for client communication… and that plan must be sure to account for a variety of different needs.
Different Clients, Different Needs
Communication needs look very different from client to client. Some require daily interaction and feedback, while others require and (even appreciate) infrequent contact. Knowing the communication level that is both appropriate and expected from your clients is essential. So, how do you go about determining this?
First, Assess Your Clients
Before you reach out to your clients for input, it’s a good idea to assess each of your clients with their needs and your relationships in mind. For example, if your client buys widgets from you twice a year, you will have very little client interaction. In fact, this type of client most likely wishes to have infrequent communication.
On the other hand, the more personal your product or service is to your client, it’s likely communication will be more frequent. If you manage a private grade school, your clients are the parents. This often means daily, weekly, and monthly communication will be desired. While these examples are two extremes, they are a highly plausible demonstration of varying communication needs.
If you believe your client will prefer daily to monthly communication, speaking to the client and asking them their input is important. This suggests a more involved relationship, which will benefit from a phone call or even a face-to-face meeting. So many people (myself included), utilize email too often rather than pick up the phone or meet a client in person.
If you think less communication is expected and appreciated, you may want to question those clients via email or a less-personal survey. Of course, a determining factor will be the quantity of customers you need to reach. Meeting a large number of clients face-to-face is neither time nor cost-effective, and would benefit from a less personal method of contact.
Remember: this is simply an initial assessment to determine how you obtain client feedback. Ultimately, you will need to ask your client what methods and frequency they prefer; never assume to know what they’re thinking. Ask.
Gather Feedback and Put It to Use
Thoughtful feedback is one of the most important pieces of a client relationship, and there are many tools you can use to gather it. Phone/web/paper surveys, mystery shopping, interviews, focus groups, discussion groups, and social media are all options to consider.
Regardless of whether feedback is gathered infrequently via email or monthly over the phone, it’s not something to take for granted. This means you must capture the data you gather from your clients, and have a system in place to accommodate their responses. Once this system is in place, notify the client of the changes you’ve made according to their responses.
Asking for input and then ignoring that input is not an effective way to maintain long term customers. If a client sees their feedback being ignored, it’s likely you won’t be receiving much feedback at all in the future.
Following through on that data in a way that complements your clients’ needs, however? That’s your key to exceeding your clients’ expectations and building a mutually-beneficial client relationship.
Contact Peak Surveys to help exceed your customers’ expectations.