Most people don’t know how simple it is to wow customers. Think about your last dining experience at a restaurant you love. These days good customer service is standard so you probably received your drinks and food in a decent amount of time. If you’re lucky, you had a wow experience. Maybe the host greeted you by name (remember “Norm” from the T.V. show Cheers) and took you to a favorite table; maybe the server remembered a dish you ordered in the past and recommended a new selection.
In that context it’s easy to see what we love about being wowed as customers. But when we’re supposed to provide that service to our clients we worry about wasting our time as well as theirs. We don’t want to be seen as pushy. Many times we just don’t think about it at all.
Although wowing customers can be simple, it takes sustained effort and a change in thinking. Below are a few steps to make this change.
Discover Client Expectations
The first step to wowing customers is to ask about their expectations. Questions like, “In working with an attorney what do you hope to achieve?” and “Which types of communication work best for you?” can give you a baseline for excellent service.
I’m surprised at how infrequently people ask their clients what they want and instead think that they already know. Your client’s perception is reality. You can’t wow clients unless you know what their expectations are and what they want from you.
The next barrier I see to wowing customers is a lack of empathy. In the middle of a busy day it’s hard to slow down and be present with a client. In fact, at a recent client meeting I watched myself fail at creating customer empathy. (Yes, even marketers can miss the opportunity to connect!)
I needed to take the time to ask questions and figure out why they wanted us to do it a certain way. Getting to the core issues would have allowed me to meet their needs first and then handle any logistics afterwards. When I saw my mistake I tried to fix it, but I’d missed my opportunity to connect deeply.
If you suspect you’re not very empathic, it is possible to learn. Don’t stop at the excuse, “I’m not a people person.” Work through mini case studies and role play client meetings to improve your ability to connect without having to force it.
Look for ways to connect that play to your strengths. If you’re not an expert (or feel uncomfortable) at small talk but you love numbers, get to know your clients’ businesses and connect through your interest in numbers. If you’re a born strategist, offer to help them brainstorm.
Ingenuity is Wowed
Recently our controller, Kristine Reddy, CPA, came in for our monthly meeting. Wendy and I told her we were thinking about hiring one to two more communication consultants. She jumped right in and suggested that since we were adding more consultants we also should consider adding one more administration person. She said both Wendy and I needed to delegate more so we could spend most of our time on billable or business development activities. She knows our business and our goals so well that her suggestions were intelligent and very welcome.
If she’d been focused only on average customer service, she’d have given us a few reports, talked about the numbers, listed the client accounts that needed to become current and stopped there. Instead she created reports beyond those we’ve asked for. She asked questions to figure out our goals and made recommendations that added value. She taught our administration person to use QuickBooks so that she could focus on the financial strategy of our firm. We’ve only had her working with us for seven months but we don’t know what we’d do without her.
Customer intimacy is achieved when you know your client so well that you can anticipate needs and recommend solutions the client might never have considered. It’s the foundation of wowing your customers. The good news is that you don’t have to invest hours at a stretch to develop customer intimacy. It’s built through small steps inside the existing relationship, such as taking a few minutes to ask key questions like those mentioned above and following up on client requests for other services.
As you get to know your clients, keep track of the details of their lives (and business) and include them in your firm’s Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system so that other members of the firm can assist them intelligently if they need to. Get to know your clients and share that information. If your client has just returned from a vacation, your receptionist (if she/he was aware) could ask how it was. As your clients feel more connected to the firm through customer intimacy and utilizing multiple services, the likelihood that they’ll remain a customer for life increases dramatically.
Start the Shift
In past issues of InGenius Review I’ve detailed how crossselling is a service to clients. In fact, one of the biggest barriers to customer intimacy across a firm is the lack of knowledge by staff about the firm’s other services. If you’re not familiar with the services available you’ll hesitate to recommend them, even when your clients want the referral. Studies have shown that the more services clients receive at your firm, the more loyalty it generates.
If your firm hasn’t made the time to hold team meetings about cross-selling and sharing client data, start by demonstrating that total commitment to your clients. The shift to wowing customers comes when you put their goals first, listen deeply and look for more ways to connect them to your firm. If you find yourself too busy to focus on clients, take a night off and go to a favorite restaurant. Experience wow customer service and you’ll want to provide it.