In my role as Client Services Manager for Opus Communication, it is my responsibility to mold the direction of the Client Services team on a day-to-day basis. Client Services is an intricate part of any business and regardless of your product, they act as an ambassador to your customers.
When I started here back in 2013, my aim has been to adapt the established strategies and import them across the pond. But, even more importantly, I’ve tried to personalize them in my own words.
What follows is my adaptation of long established Opus strategies, aimed at ensuring the highest possible standards, building lasting relationships and developing a team that strives to exceed expectation through small and achievable goals.
1. No seriously, the customer is always right.
You’ve heard this before, but what on Earth does it really mean? For me, it is essential that we develop excellent listening skills and always strive to be empathic to the experience of the customer. A very wise man (Carl R. Rogers to be exact) once described the importance of empathy in a therapeutic context. I consider it critically important in a Client Services context as well.
Some people starting out in Client Services struggle with this concept of the customer always being right by saying, ‘But the customer is wrong and rude!’ No, the customer is frustrated. The rudeness is merely an unintended reaction to the frustration they feel. Aren’t you frustrated when something doesn’t work as expected? ‘But they are doing it wrong,’ one may retort. In that case, it is a golden opportunity to provide insight and assistance. But do it from a position of kindness, respect and understanding.
2. be relatable and be receptive
If we can relate to the frustration of the customer and convey a degree of empathy, then we will no longer be reactive. As a result, we will start to provide a far better level of service. It might hurt the first few times, but soon you’ll see the benefits when you stop reacting and start ‘receiving’.
3. Listening is NOT the act of not speaking
Understanding a customer’s needs, beyond merely their technical requirement, is the result of excellent listening skills. Of course, this can only begin once we are receptive to the customer, rather than reactive. This is not a dance, boxing match or competition with the customer. The process is an exchange, based on a sincere intent to both assist and understand the customer.
4. Not everyone sings from the same sheet music.
Tolerance and patience go a long way because not everyone is equipped with the same awareness, knowledge or understanding. I try not to presume too much or too little when speaking to a customer. It is also important not to create obstacles early on in communication. For this reason, I never use acronyms. This will distance you from the customer.
In our case, I don’t toss around common terms that I know cold like GSLB (Global Server Load Balancing), TM (Traffic Manager), DR (Disaster Recovery) or IS (Implementation Specialist). Try to use simple and descriptive language until you are sure the recipient of the information knows exactly what you are talking about. Not everyone speaks your language.
5. Supporting your team is the most important strategy you have.
Great Client Services teams are not built overnight, nor are they built out of a dictatorial approach. Just like solid customer relations, they are built out of a sincere commitment of humility and understanding toward your team. No one person is perfect every day of the week.
It is important to recognize when one of your team needs support, to be taken off the front line or to be heard and understood. Exercise the same disposition and characteristics when dealing with your own team as you would do with your customers. There really is no difference.
While mentoring and motivation are important, so is the propagation of a culture that supports and nurtures your team. If you create this culture, a most amazing thing happens: people start spontaneously motivating and mentoring each other. If you treat your team with respect and trust, they will continue to evolve.
6. We’re all human. So just be human.
I am very conscious of ‘just’ being human. I’m not a robot or a title. I try to be kind and to be helpful. It’s really that simple. Knowledge comes with time but receptiveness can be immediate.
Try not to make things about policy, procedure or bureaucracy – again, be human. Be relatable, manage expectations and convey this back to your team and customers in human ways. This allows approachability to be the order of the day. Also, this is as important for customers as it is for your team. Your team and your customers share the same desire: they want to speak to a human being.
7. Educate but don’t dictate.
Developing the essential skills of listening and understanding will let you to know when a customer wants an immediate resolution but doesn’t want to learn the resolution. It is difficult to fulfill expectations if you treat every customer the same way. Every single customer is a new opportunity, so avoid being formulaic, which goes back to being natural and being human.
8. Don’t over egg it. No one likes a soggy pudding.
Say only what you need to effectively convey the information or understanding required. It is best to avoid being unnecessarily verbose as a good point is often lost in excessive words. Again, it creates distance rather than understanding.
9. Embrace the difficult customers. They’ll be your greatest allies one day!
After dealing with customers in many different industries, for me at least, this is now the rule rather than the exception. See every customer as an opportunity to gain an ally. If you can truly exceed the expectations of the most difficult customer then, my friend, you are on the right path to an excellent Client Services strategy.