The best businesses have always prioritized their customers above all else. But over the last few decades, as the improvement of the internet has allowed a lot of the competition to become globalized, and has magnified the opinions of the dissatisfied, it has never been so clear that client-care is the lifeblood of successful business. Tesla has some really cool cars (and spaceships) but the core reason that they have a cult following is that they make their customers feel important. When you buy a Tesla you’re in a special club, part of the environmental and technological revolution. I think, anyways, I don’t own one. I inadvertently (read: stupidly) added my phone number into one of those refinance calculator websites and I have received non-stop calls ever since. Business are starving for clients. In fact, many will pay hefty prices just for qualified leads and the hope of converting them into paying customers.
So, since clients are so valuable and businesses need them so much, why do clients so rarely use this leverage to their advantage? It may come down to personality, social status or even how well you speak English, but it seems that many clients, even excellent ones, are more likely to accept sub-par service, than to try to change it.
What is an excellent client?
A good client is simply one that uses services and pays what they owe. That’s pretty easy right? To receive excellent service, all you should really need to be is a paying customer. And, being an excellent client is just as much about creating value for yourself, as it is about adding your value to businesses. Though it’s not necessary to be an excellent client, it is perhaps these factors that will empower you to demand the very best service:
- Excellent clients take advantage of brand loyalty
When you find a company that you believe in, or maybe just policies you can live with, it makes sense to utilize their entire suite of services. Not only will that help ensure a more consistent service experience, being a loyal consumer also make you more valuable in the eyes the company. For instance, Costco has a great return policy because they realize that the value of their business is in people, not products. You can buy from them confidently and because you pay your membership (loyalty) fee, they are highly motivated to keep you happy. Similarly, whenever I buy anything on credit, I can do so without fear because I know that I will usually win any charge-challenges. Is JP Morgan really going to rule against you if you’re doing 99% of your spending on their cards? Not likely.
- Excellent clients establish and maintain excellent credit
If you have established superior credit, you are already an excellent client and deserve the best service. Your payment history reflects the fact that you are consistently able to handle loans and credit without a hassle and businesses should feel lucky to have you as a client.
Related: The Best Way To Use Loyalty Rewards Points
- Excellent clients are respectful, courteous and listen carefully
Old adages are typically corny but often hold a kernel of truth: In order to get respect, you have to give it. Of course, the very best service is consistently great regardless of your attitude, but if you’re acting like a jerk you’re not going engender any good will when you need it. I believe in an abundance of kindness, just up to the point that I’m being taking advantage of.
- Excellent clients are highly informed
Well-informed clients who know what they want, are extremely valuable to businesses. That’s because these clients spend far less time asking questions about the process, less time making decisions and they are more quickly ready to sign. Doing research will certainly benefit you, as a client, as well, as businesses have always made the most money on the naivete of their customers.
What is excellent service?
It seems obvious because you feel superior customer service when you’re experiencing it. However, it’s also easy to lose sight of the care you are entitled to when it’s not present. When client-care is not good, we are more likely to make excuses for the representative than to hold them accountable. However, we probably should hold them accountable more often because when you are an excellent client, anything less than excellent service is unacceptable. But what is excellent customer service?
Excellent services involves:
- Consistent, warm communication
Communication is so important, yet sadly lacking in so many business interactions. Instead of improving communication, the expansion of the internet has seemingly contributed to the erosion of personal connections. Every communication between you and a company representative should reaffirm your decision to hire them.
When you buy your first home, you will find no shortage of mortgage brokers. However, very few of them seem happy to answer your questions. I have interviewed many mortgage brokers and did some research online and many claim that answering questions isn’t their job, they simply connect clients with the loan. But, if they expect to deal with clients directly and want repeat business from excellent clients, answering questions is their job. The more of us who fire representatives of bad service, the more empowered we become as clients.
- Attention to detail
If they aren’t spelling your name right, aren’t aware of what you need and don’t recall things you’ve already said, then they don’t care about you. Excellent client care means that you are treated like family, not an account number.
- Non-judgmental responses to your questions
Any hint of your representative deriding you for your questions is a red flag. You hired them because you either don’t have the time, or don’t have the expertise to do it yourself, so you should never feel be made to feel bad about the questions you ask.
- Clear fee structures / billing procedures
When I first started my career as a tax professional, I unknowingly entered an industry that is infamous among clients for surprise bills, Legal work. Specifically, tax-debt representation. The tax liability industry was and maybe still is, facilitated mostly by unlicensed sales people. I remember a single CPA who would walk around the office to take the IRS calls for about 10 unlicensed “practitioners,” who were not legally allowed to represent clients. Even worse than that, some of these sales people were offering the CPA’s credentials as their own. Being unlicensed doesn’t stop them from charging the rates of a New York City prosecutor, for example, 2 hours (up to $400) just to “open” a case (template letters).
I resigned from the first of such companies, by leaving a scathing letter that I wish I had kept. I eventually found firms that offered solid services, without the dishonesty. It turns out that you can tell your clients exactly what you charge and how you charge it and if you provide excellent care and deliver results, they will continue to pay you. If the fee structure is not clear, stay clear.
- Accomplishing your goals
If it’s all talk, at the end of the day it’s not excellent service. You pay, and perhaps pay more than the average, to get the best results.
How to get excellent service
Getting excellent service should be expected but is sometimes easier gained by simply asking for it. As someone who has worked with hundreds of clients and who has been a client for dozens of businesses, I am keenly aware of both sides of service. I realize that customer care representatives can get a little lazy, or be less attentive that they should. Sometimes they just need a friendly reminder from their client; when I am entering into a new business relationship, I attempt to paint a picture of who we are, what we are looking for and the kind of service we want, in as friendly a manner as I can. I then ask them if they can meet our goals and service needs and more often than not, this strategy leads to better care.
That doesn’t always work though, sometimes regardless of how you many hints you drop, your phone calls and emails go unanswered. That’s when it’s time to move on. When we were buying our first house we were offered a large credit for going with the builder’s “preferred” lender. I later found out that the builder owns a majority stake in the lending company, which is probably why they are preferred by the builder. Of course, these credits are never free, the costs are baked into the interest rate, but the loan options they provided combined with the credit, were not awful. Their, service, however, was. They are so accustomed to being fed business from the builder and winning clients with their cash credit offers, that they no don’t feel obligated to focus on client care. So, we went with someone else and left the money on the table to work with someone who was willing to answer all of our questions and found us much better options.