Once upon a time, the words “customer service” held great meaning for both the business and the customer. Instinctively we knew that those two words were part of a key strategy that the owners of the business valued and stood behind. Unfortunately over the years the meaning has been so diluted that it has become almost an empty phrase that rarely inspires.
The very definition of the words “to serve” communicates the need to listen, respond timely and satisfy. Excellent customer service means reacting well.
Some clever marketing executives in an attempt to breathe new life into an old concept changed the words to “customer care,” but the customer’s experience remained the same.
Before writing this blog, I reviewed 50 websites from the Channel Partner Network on LinkedIn. Maybe I did not search long or hard enough, but all of them touted their superior “customer service” and none of them explained what made their support unique and how it differed from their competition.
In our dynamic industry we have one hand grasping at new technologies and the other hand grasping at new sales. What resources will we devote to our exiting customer when there are no hands left?
By design, “customer service” is reactive. It is an old model that will no longer win the day. In order to stand out and serve at a higher, more professional level, we need to do more than provide excellent customer service. We must anticipate needs and be proactive in our communication, our process and our follow-through. This is the greatest, most effective strategy to impact and retain a customer.
Anticipating needs requires planning new strategies and a commitment to executing and assessing the results. Here are some simple examples of how to anticipate needs:
When you plan to be out of the office for a day, e-mail your core customers before they reach out and receive your “out of office” message.
If you have a scheduled call to discuss a new product or carrier proposal, make sure you ask the customer how many days in advance of the discussion they would like to receive the document. This will allow them enough time to digest the offering prior to your call.
Shortly after a discussion with a customer, briefly summarize the highlights and action steps from the call and e-mail it to the customer. This immediately will demonstrate that you were listening and understand their needs.
If you have not personally experienced the feeling of another human being anticipating your needs you are missing a great deal. A small, personal gesture such as being handed your morning coffee without having asked for it … this is anticipating needs.
In the business world, the opportunity to anticipate your customers’ needs is endless. Spend time thinking about how to be proactive, not just reactive. It will pay off immeasurably and you will stand out from the pack!
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