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Can’t Get No (Client) Satisfaction?

Barbara Coles

by Barbara Coles

It’s a fact: service-committed organizations are more profitable, have lower marketing costs, suffer fewer client complaints and enjoy more repeat business than those with little or no commitment to client satisfaction.

Whether in the smallest town or the largest city, you are your practice, firm or company. Everything you say and do impacts your image positively or negatively. Therefore, everything about you – from your personal appearance, to the way you deal with your employees and clients – is a billboard advertising your firm. Here are some client-satisfaction tips to help you attain or polish a positive image and retain valued clients:

Knowledge of the Client
Go straight to the source. Ask your clients, what do you need and expect from our firm? Do the supporting divisions (clerical staff, billing, etc.) of our firm work seamlessly and equally as hard to serve you? Which details have the most positive or negative impact on your satisfaction?

Once you have asked these questions, you’ll find that clients will generally evaluate your service quality on the following factors:
• Reliability: The ability to provide as promised, dependably and accurately.
• Responsiveness: Helping clients eagerly and in a timely manner.
• Assurance: The competence, trustworthiness and courtesy that is shown.
• Follow-through: Paying attention to often-ignored details.

Reliability
Good client service does not mean doing the impossible. The tendency is to promise the client “the moon” in order to cut-off the competition. There’s one problem with this approach: it’s impossible to deliver “the moon” on a regular basis. And, once you have managed the impossible once, you have created an unrealistic expectation. Attempting to achieve the impossible too often may create a high level of turnover and ultimately results in a service failure. This may result in a client who doesn’t return or, worse yet, in one who tells others about their unhappy experience.

Conversely, being reliable puts you in a position to shape your clients’ expectations to match what you can provide. It’s in your firm’s best interest to educate your clients regarding your work requirements, timetables and processes. There will be occasions when circumstances will not allow you to meet a client’s needs. If you have dealt reliably with that client in the past and explain your situation, along with your unwillingness to disappoint them, then your client will know that you have been honest and concerned about his or her satisfaction.

Responsiveness
Timely response has always been important in business. Be sure to ask your client some background about his or her project and its urgency so that you can gauge what he or she really needs before setting a deadline. If your deadline doesn’t work for the client, partner with them by working within reasonable bounds to get them as much of what they need as you can within the time constraints. If it simply can’t be done, brainstorm alternatives.

Dissatisfaction is usually a byproduct of uncertainty. Educate your client on matters where you think he or she may be confused or uninformed. This will help to put your client at ease, and instill them with trust in you to keep them informed.

Assurance
There’s no substitute for competence. Good service is built on attention to detail and client needs. Good service is also built on knowledge, confidence and know-how. Good reputations are built on assurance, the substance that makes your clients believe you will deliver:

• Client knowledge
• Legal knowledge
• Company knowledge
• Listening skills
• Problem-solving skills

Follow-through
Send a service evaluation form to your clients. The information you get from it will help you gauge your success, and it will leave the client feeling as if his or her future satisfaction is truly your goal. Similarly, a sincere and timely note of thanks to clients can create a positive impression, boosting your image and bringing repeat business.

In a world long on hype and short on quality, most people are willing, even eager, to share their discovery of good service. Maintaining good service is maintaining your good reputation – the most effective (and least costly) form of advertising available.

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