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Is it time to service your service?

When was the last time you had a really good look at the service you offer? It’s really easy to slip into habitual ways of doing things. “We’ve always done it like this” and “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it” are common shouts when we discuss service levels with our clients. It pays to analyse your customer service from a number of angles to see if you can improve the user experience (UXP for the jargon-lovers). This results in one or more of the following outcomes:

  • a series of brand-new, fantastic ideas (business boosters)
  • the discovery of a repeated error/weakness (that you can fix)
  • ways to keep your existing customers happy (and therefore increasing retention/repeat business levels)
  • ways to attract brand new customers (and therefore widening your market appeal)
  • the satisfaction of knowing that you have all bases covered and there’s nothing more you can do (unlikely)

To assess your current service level, its a good idea to talk to clients and your team. If you have a process for logging complaints or customer enquiries, talk to the front line team at that point to see what the regular feedback is from clients.

IDEA: We suggest picking a selection of clients – those who love what you do, those who are indifferent and those who are known to be difficult or demanding. Ask them a series of carefully thought-out questions to find out how you fare and how you could improve. Always finish with ‘if there is one single thing we could do today to make your experience better, what would it be?’. The results of doing this may surprise you. Whatever you get from the experience, your customers will respect you for asking for their opinion.

IDEA: Another eye-opening way to assess your service is to arrange for a few mystery shoppers to road-test your business. If it’s a consultancy type of business you can still do this by asking your mystery shoppers to phone for an initial enquiry – can you do what they need, how much would it be and what can you expect, for example. If you are a business with passing trade, get a few people to use the business – go in, phone up, buy products – whatever you need them to do to get some value from their involvement.

SIMPLE CASE STUDY: A garden centre customer of ours employed 10 couples of different ages and at different stages of their life to visit them (at various times of the week). Each couple had a budget of £25 to spend in the garden centre and £25 for the restaurant and were required to answer 5 questions on each. In return they kept their purchases and enjoyed a nice lunch. The garden centre gained all kinds of information, much of it totally unexpected. As a result of the informal survey, the centre changed its restaurant closing time by just half an hour which, after a few months, made a significant difference to its profits. At £50 per couple (£15-20 in real cost terms), they got a valuable insight to the shopping experience from the customer perspective. It is almost never what you think it is.

Your staff will also be an excellent touching point for understanding what customers want. Again, look for patterns in feedback or customer questions. Improvements could be as simple as finding you easily, knowing where to park and the welcome they receive. We label our clients’ parking spaces with their name and company name so they know that their arrival is anticipated and prepared for.

SIMPLE CASE STUDY: An article in Accountancy magazine outlined how clients turned up for a meeting at their accountants (this is relevant to every type of business so bear with us). It was a blisteringly hot day. They were shown into a meeting room with air conditioning and offered a selection of ice cold drinks from the meeting room fridge – water, fizzy drinks, iced tea and even ice lollies! Through doing slightly more than expected, this firm really stood out. This level of care should be normal but we know it’s not.

Obviously the customer care you offer will vary according to the industry you are in. However we would be surprised if it can’t be improved in some way, even if it’s the warm welcome you offer to start any communication, concluding with a sincere thank you at its completion.

IDEA: Set up a working group and make this one of your ‘return to work’ actions in September. Your findings could be translated into reality for you to kick start 2019 as your best ever customer service year ever!

 

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