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The 11 Deadly Sins of Client Service

Barb photo largerA strong, positive business image is essential to success but hard to build and often harder to maintain. Negative word of mouth can put your company into receivership through:
• Lost revenues that occur when unhappy clients decide to go elsewhere
• Increased advertising costs incurred in order to offset your negative image
• Costs inherent in replacing unsatisfied clients
• Missed opportunities to serve potential new clients who heard from the disgruntled former client (or someone they talked to first)

Given the immense impact of negative word of mouth on your image and your business success, evaluating your client interactions is a necessity. Are you or your staff committing any of the 11 Deadly Sins of Client Service?

Deadly Sin #1: I know-it-all.
Do you listen thoroughly or do you interrupt with a recommendation before you client is finished explaining the problem? Do you try to force a quick decision before clients have a chance to weigh the options? Do you give a client all the options available, or do you pre-select options for them? All of these tendencies leave clients feeling rushed and misunderstood.

Deadly Sin #2: You’re bothering me.
Do your staff’s conversations with their co-workers or personal phone calls take precedence over a client that’s waiting? Do your staff members make “inside jokes” in a client’s presence? Do your facial expressions reveal a negative attitude toward serving this client? Train your staff to attend to clients immediately and in a uniformly congenial manner.

Deadly Sin #3: I don’t know.
The primary reason for client dissatisfaction is staff ignorance. Clients expect a staff member at your business to know about your services or products. Of course, there are always questions that must be researched. When this occurs, don’t guess. Simply reply, “I’ll find out,” then do it – immediately – and get back to them when promised.

Deadly Sin #4: You don’t know.
Do you ever register annoyance with a client that asks numerous or (in your opinion) simple, silly questions? There are no dumb questions! Don’t make a client feel inferior because he is confused. Take the attitude: “If the client doesn’t understand my explanation, then I’m not explaining it very well.”

Deadly Sin #5: I don’t care.
Clients want you to positively reinforce their choice to do business with you. They want you to care about serving them. Do you or your staff members make comments in front of clients like “I hate working this shift”? Are there any signs on desks that read, “I’d rather be golfing”? When your staff’s attitude, conversation or appearance makes it clear that they’d rather be somewhere else, your clients feel unappreciated.

Deadly Sin #6: Hello. You must be the client from Hell.
No one enjoys an encounter with a hostile client but occasionally bad things happen to good clients, and it’s your job to lend your help – not mirror the client’s anger back to him or her. Get good training for your front line staff so that they know how to deal with a client’s anger in a positive way. This benefits your business, your clients and your staff.

Deadly Sin #7: So we messed up.
As much as we strive to be error-free, we aren’t. When the error is yours, phone or send an apology. Be sincere, personal and timely.

Deadly Sin #8: The other guy messed up.
Scapegoating is not classy, and it does not reflect well on you or your business. Of course, not everything that affects your client’s experience is within your control. When problems do occur, take the initiative to find out what your client needs now. Then help your client problem-solve (ie: Is there an alternative shipper? Do we have anything in stock that will work for now?) Out of this adversity will rise an opportunity for you to actually improve your reputation.

Deadly Sin #9: Sorry – a rule is a rule.
Of course you must follow company policy – but if a client has to wai any amount of time in your waiting room, and then asks to use your phone to tell the babysitter he’ll be late – it would be imprudent to say, “Sorry, that’s for internal use only.” Counsel your new hires and inexperienced staff members to ask for the advice of a supervisor when a client’s request pushes the boundaries of your company policy. If a request is truly unattainable, try to strike a compromise with the client or recommend an alternative.

Deadly Sin #10: You’re not welcome here.
It’s hard to imagine a businessperson actually saying that, but that meaning can be conveyed in many ways. Do your staff members pay equal attention to everyone who walks in the door regardless of size, shape, age, color, educational level, taste in clothing, etc.? If everyone who walks through your door is treated with equal vigor, courtesy and respect, he or she will walk out with a good impression (and a positive story to tell to others about your business).

Deadly Sin #11: We take your business for granted.
You must convey your sincere appreciation to your clients – because they had a choice to go elsewhere and didn’t. The most common occasions for thanking clients are:
• At the beginning and end of every transaction
• After they offer comments and suggestions
• When they try a new product or service
• After they recommend you to a friend
• When they are patient

Maintaining your good reputation with clients is the most effective (and least costly) form of advertising available. It’s cheaper to maintain current clients than to develop new ones. The suggestions listed above will aid you in your quest to keep the client satisfied and keep their stories about your business positive.

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