To begin, there’s value in keeping your existing customers! Did you know that getting a new customer can cost 5 to 25 times more than keeping and satisfying an existing customer?
Now we have your attention, consider that we are in the Digital Era and if you’re not going to satisfy your customers, there’s going to be someone else in your market that can and will. Why not use the ideas that follow as a sort of ‘spring clean’? We want to challenge whether you’re awake and how awake you are to meeting customer needs in the fast-moving space of customer service.
1. Know what they really want
How long is it since you have taken the time to have some 1-1 with your existing customers? As service benchmarks change, based on things being made available more easily and faster, it is vital that you understand where and how you satisfy (or don’t) your customers. If you’re a service business, this might be a catch-up coffee with your top 5 as a start. If you’re online, a poll or incentivised survey of your customers may do the trick. Either way, it will be up to you to craft a series of questions that gives you a ‘warts and all’ view of how well you’re satisfying your customers and what you might need to think about to maintain the edge.
2. Learn to listen for anomalies
As you might imagine, whether you’re asking in person, or surveying online, the purpose is not necessarily to validate yourself and your business. The purpose is to look for small glimmers of possibility and misalignment. Do your customers offer a clue about something they need, something they’ve heard of, or something they love, and how does this relate to the service or good you offer? What might you want to research in response to that and what benefit will this bring for your future relationships and brand?
3. Show them what they can’t see
It’s possible that your customer has not put that much thought into the changing nature of business. They may be a disruption waiting to happen and may be unaware of the impact digitisation and speed is having on their broader market. Consider the conversations you have and the questions you pose may have them ‘wake up’ to what they have not been able to make sense of themselves, and that by revealing this, you help reveal questions they themselves need to answer.
4. Build trust
Reaching out and asking questions may reveal feedback that’s hard to hear. Even via survey. But this is a golden opportunity to take a good hard look at you and your business and decide whether your current activity is building or undermining trust. If your clients believe that you’re insincere, incompetent, unreliable or that you don’t care for them, you have a trust problem. It will be worthwhile specifically digging in to explore the nature of any trust concern by exploring where and how you don’t meet their needs and what they would like to see as a remedy. Asking a lot of questions to understand this will truly help.
5. Identify your delivery standards
It’s likely that if your client has a concern about your service, you have not identified and agreed to delivery standards. Standards describe how you think the world ‘ought to be’. They are like a set of rules that you identify and create that dictate how you think things should go, how others should be, what’s acceptable and what is not. They are typically designed (and unconsciously adopted) to take care of your concerns, and they play out during times of growth and change. As soon as you identify a ‘should’ or ‘should not’ in relation to your service, your standards may be at play. Your capacity to become aware of and understand your standards, and to identify what your client’s standards are can help to bridge any invisible gaps around delivery expectations.
6. Make robust requests and offers
You may discover in the course of conversation that it’s not the ‘big stuff’ that has your clients dissatisfied, but the small stuff. This can also be the everyday conversations. Concerns about the quality of communication, or the lack of clear coordination between you and them as you deliver what’s important for them. If this is the case, it’s an opportunity to get clearer about your (and your team’s) capacity to make great requests and offers. Making offers when you hear a need expressed by your client is the best way to build trust and partnership. Also, consider agreeing to a way that you each make powerful requests – including great context, what you want, by when, with explicit conditions for delivery. This will help to build a long-term relationship across all levels of business. Invest in upskilling everyone in your delivery chain if you need to.
7. Confirm commitments before delivery
Consider this a double check. It’s like going to a restaurant and having the waiter read back the order. This usually happens automatically in electronic transactions. In the human to human transaction however, repeating back an agreement is rarely done, and it can mean there’s a discrepancy between what has been requested and what is understood. Notice also, we did not say task. We said commitments. So it’s really important that the person taking the commitment on is clear and that the domains for accountability are understood both client and provider side. Consider sharing a digital asset that tracks shared commitments between your organisation – so you have visibility on both sides of the fence.
8. Have the difficult conversations
Maybe you’re rolling your eyes about now, but you need to know how to have what you might consider as challenging conversations! They’re an investment in relationship, trust and partnership, they clear concerns out of the way so you can get on with taking care of your business. They should not happen electronically. These are always better voice to voice or face to face and there’s a particular method to do it. To begin, consider what you need to discuss ahead of time and plan it out. Get your mood right and enter the conversation ready to listen, learn, discover and share. Then, start with the most recent evidence you can use to describe what has happened. Use data only to begin and keep this short. It is not about mounting a case. Then share your concern, and you might include a reason why you’d like to solve it. Finally, ask them how they see it and then shut up and listen.
The benefit of doing this regularly and as soon as challenges and concern arise is that this clears the space for resolving challenges, building a partnership and learning from what might have happened, where you both agree on a way forward.
9. Show up as a powerful offer
This one is all about you. The way you approach these conversations or even the design of an online questionnaire will reveal a lot about your inner narrative and mood. You see, we all have a story about ourselves, our clients and pretty much everything else that happens to us and around us in our life. The quality of this story really matters. If yours is about being a victim, it might play out as resentment. If yours is about being a hero, it might play out as arrogance. If you cannot see this, your clients do. It will show up in your body. Constructing yourself as a powerful offer is about understanding the quality of your narrative, the related mood and how this shows up in your body, since congruence with this is at the heart of being able to show up as a powerful offer.
10. Decide on the offer you want to be
In relation to your customers and yourself, the words you use, whether in your head or what you say out loud, create your world. The idea is that the way you see, interpret and listen to what’s around you generates your reality ‘moment to moment’ and this process is continuous.
If you are going to stay the course in a changing world, self-awareness and the capacity to shift from a less constructive narrative to a more powerful one is key. What kind of leader do you want to be? How do you want to show up in satisfying your client’s needs? What is the narrative that serves you in creating this?
The good news is that you can decide, shift and change this, over time.
At Liberated Leaders, we specialise in helping leaders change their narrative for the sake of remaining relevant. We work with narratives and over time, supporting leaders to evolve them for the sake of reconnecting them with their power, with possibility and to build new skills and practices to withstand current and future changes to circumstances. We do this with a strong sense of optimism and hope for the future.