I must admit, I am a bit of a fan of some of the old-school business sayings.
However, one in particular has been bugging me for the past few weeks, not because I disagree with it, but because I keep coming across business owners and managers who ignore the actual message.
“There are no stupid questions”.
Now let me put a little spin on this one – think about this: “It’s stupid to have no questions”.
As a service industry owner or manager, are you asking the right questions? And more importantly, are you really listening to the answers? Your business is built on relationships, the better your relationship with your customers the greater the chance of success your business will have.
Bad habits of owners and managers who are not asking their customers questions include: Ignoring feedback, arguing with complaining customers, assuming that all customers think like you and imparting the same culture into employees. By not asking questions in difficult situations, you may appear as rude, arrogant and even stupid. To not ask for more information is a wasted opportunity to both improve your business and to ensure that customers keep spending money with you.
Would you recommend a business to a friend if you felt ignored?
CREATE YOUR CLIENT COMMUNICATION VALUES
Your Client Communication Values will be the standards you want to achieve and surpass when communicating with your customers. This doesn’t need to be a thesis – here are some starters to get you thinking:
Value 1: Make sure our customers feel that they have been genuinely listened to.
This is not rocket science - just good, old-fashioned manners. Focus on the person, don’t get distracted and ensure you respond genuinely to the content of the message. Write down information, make notes, pass on messages and follow through. Apply to every interaction. One on one meetings, telephone calls, email correspondence, even a casual passing in the hall way.
Value 2: ALWAYS provide a response to customer complaints, concerns and feedback within a set time, regardless of the content.
What’s suitable for your business and acceptable to your clients? 1 hour? 24 hours? Decide on a time and stick to it. Most importantly GUARANTEE it.
A friend of mine tried to provide some constructive feedback to a restaurant venue about her wedding day issues. She didn’t want any compensation, she just wanted to be heard. After the event the venue wedding coordinator emailed to ask if she enjoyed her day, and my friend advised that she had some items of concern to discuss personally. No contact was received, no questions asked. 8 months later the new wedding coordinator emailed, inviting past brides to have their wedding images on the business website. My friend responded again that she had been unhappy but not had not received a response. The new coordinators reply? Nothing. 2 out of 2. My friend now avoids the venue, saying “Why would I spend money where they won’t listen? They obviously don’t care” She certainly doesn’t recommend the venue for an event, and the owner is none the wiser about how he could improve his business.
You don’t have to have a final solution within the time guarantee. An acknowledgement that the message has been received is acceptable, with the assurance that a formal response will be made in a timely manner.
Value 3: Ensure our customers always feel comfortable to communicate.
Did you know that customers can avoid your business if they are even a littleconcerned that they may feel uncomfortable? Feeling uncomfortable can occur from many different types of interactions, some out of your control. Maybe you are aware of an incident that made them uncomfortable, or they tried to sell you something unsuccessfully, or were embarrassed by a friend or acquaintance. You can eliminate your customer’s tension by addressing the issue quickly, in a relaxed manner. Can you call or email the customer later to check they are ok? Reassure them that there is no issue and put them at ease. If you are feeling pressured to buy or engage in a way that is unsuitable to you politely say thanks but no thanks – your customer deserves a response. Step up and take control – deal with the matter as soon as possible and move on.
Value 4: We respect the diversity of what our clients contribute to our business.
Your regular clients can be your biggest supporters and your biggest critics. Avoid entertaining the emotional part of your brain, and logically listen and respect the messages coming from someone who is trying to support you. If Mrs Jones is always the first to tell you that she heard something negative and“what are you doing to fix it“, don’t shoot Mrs Jones because she’s whingeing again. Ask her for more information. When? What happened? Can you have the contact information to call the person involved? Find out how reliable the information is. Thank Mrs Jones for taking the time to pass on the information and use it to better your client experience. Similarly, if your regular customers keep telling you something you don’t like or agree with, stay impartial, and record the comments. Try to track what feedback is similar, has a pattern, or is the same demographic of people etc… Then use this information to make informed decisions about strategic changes required to improve your business.
There are many more values you can implement with your employees to create the culture of communication you desire within your business. Remember to try to get as many staff involved as you can. They know the communication issues, they hear feedback from clients, and can really contribute to assisting your business to grow more loyalty and increase your revenue
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