Building your business isn’t just about developing a great product or hiring an excellent marketing and sales team. To grow in the long term, you’ll need your existing customers on your side and advocating for your business within their own networks.
Great client relationships that lead to long-term cooperation and advocacy don’t just develop on their own. To make them happen, you and your business need to actively work to wow clients by offering truly great and memorable customer experiences. Let’s take a look at a few important steps that you can take to develop a level of service that will leave your clients laughing at the idea of going anywhere else.
Understand your role
Offering a singular customer experience isn’t just about being generally affable and helpful, it’s about perfectly fulfilling your role. To do that, you need to know exactly what clients are hoping to accomplish by hiring you or by buying your products.
Determine which problems you solve
Every product or service is, at its core, the solution to a problem. Identify what customer solutions you offer, and focus on understanding and building awareness of all the problems you can solve for clients.
Monitor client intention
Besides your business’ explicit services, it’s important to keep track of client expectations in regard to your perceived purpose. Talk to customers regularly to determine exactly what they expect from your relationship.
By doing this, you can gather information on how well you’re communicating with your clients in general, and on how you might be able to modify your services to improve your relationships.
Map the client experience
A client relationship is about far more than just delivering a product or service and collecting payment. Rather, it includes every interaction that a customer has with your brand, from the moment they learn of your business’ existence, to the point where you part ways. In many cases, you might be able to break down the relationship into these phases.
1. Awareness of your brand
2. Initial contact
3. Client onboarding
4. Delivery of products and services
5. Review of service and client feedback
By dividing and categorising your clients’ experiences in some way, you’ll be able to better analyse each phase and work out where improvements can be made. How does each phase lead into the next? How are clients treated and made to feel in each phase?
Determine what an ideal client experience looks like
No business can offer a perfect experience to every customer, but that’s no excuse not to make the effort. Before you can do that, however, you’ll need a good idea of what a great service experience is like. Think about your own experiences as a consumer, and try to identify the best service you have ever received. What stood out and made it special? How did it make you feel? How did the business you were interacting with treat you before, during, and after they rendered their service?
Once you’ve analysed your own experience, sit down with clients, co-workers, and other business owners, and ask them these same questions about a business other than yours. This can help you build an honest picture of what generally makes the difference between satisfactory and great service. When that’s done, it’s time to get specific.
Sit down with current and past clients and solicit feedback about their experience. Ask targeted and specific questions about each phase, find out what they liked, and what they feel could be done better.
More minor issues that a client might not want to bring up in a more overarching review need to be identified while they’re at the front of the client’s mind. A great way to do that is to encourage client-facing employees to informally ask current customers for feedback in the context of their regular correspondence. Not only can this help you improve your client relationships, it can also expose technical and systemic problems with your business and your services.
Make someone accountable
Make a high ranking client-facing team member explicitly responsible for managing a client’s experience from start to finish. Choosing more senior employees for this sends a message that you take client satisfaction very seriously, and ensures that the task is left to someone who has an idea of how to approach it. This person should drive efforts and lead discussions with the rest of the team to optimise and customise their respective customers’ service to best meet their unique needs.
Devoting the time and resources necessary to continually optimise and perfect your customers’ experience is key to retaining customers in the long term, and developing healthy and productive business relationships. Not only can this help you to secure a loyal client base, it can turn your customers into brand advocates who will bring in new business, and ultimately help your business grow.