Most of the Rietmark advertisers fall in the small and medium business category. Customer service in this kind of business is more personal than in the corporate and mega-business world. The question is – how difficult is it to deliver great customer service to your clients – even on a small budget? And how do you keep on delivering great customer service – forever?
First and foremost – great customer service should not be dependent on your budget. Great customer service should ooze out from you and your business, from day one and already with your first customer. Many of the lessons that I learned about customer service, was learnt in the beginning years of Rietmark. The challenge is to keep it up. Even though the intensity of those first interactions cannot be replicated when you have more customers, you should try to keep to your basic winning formula. One of the things that kept Rietmark going throughout the past recession, was our office motto – KEEP TO THE BASICS.
I’m sure you would like to know – what is these basic stuff? This will differ from one business to the next, but try to remember what made your business tick during those exciting first years of establishing and growing your own business. Your business would not be here still, if you didn’t get some of the basics right. In the case of Rietmark, I can think of a few to share with you:
1. Regular communication with your clients.
I can still remember the days before faxes and e-mails, when our sales agents had to drive around like mad, picking up advertisements that we had to design, and the agent had to drive again (and sometimes again and again) to get final approval. How wonderful was our discovery of a fax machine – it cut out all those rushing around at deadline times. Well, that was way before the advantages of e-mailing and the internet. These days we can send out single or mass e-mails, and communicate via blogs, facebook and websites.
2. Regular personal contact with your clients.
In spite of all these technological advances, regular personal contact with your clients should still be one of your priorities. Even though the technological era makes electronic communication easier, and with the price of petrol always going skyward, the Rietmark team still believes that nothing beats a visit to your premises. This is where we can get a better idea about your business and your business needs, making it easier for us to try and fulfill in those needs. This is also the place where real friendships are born, making the business relationship more relaxed and trustworthy.
3. First impressions do count.
It doesn’t matter if your first meeting with your client is via phone, e-mail or in person – first impressions definitely do count. Especially in the service industries that most of us are operating in, this is of vital importance. Ensure that your receptionist and all other staff is friendly, efficient and informed. Be on time for appointments and deliver on your promises. Have a good look at your office or shop floor, business stationery, price lists and marketing material – revamp or redesign if needed.
4. Handling of unhappy clients.
Unfortunately Murphy lurks around the corner in every business, waiting for some mishap. In the real world people sometimes make mistakes, and people in businesses also make mistakes. However, in my experience your most unhappy client can become an advocate and loyal supporter of your business, depending on the way you handle difficult situations. Try to stay calm and collected, and listen to your client’s point of view. Put in extra effort to resolve the issue to the client’s satisfaction. When everything is settled, he will respect you for your transparency and honesty in dealing with his complaint or problem.
5. Adding value to your client’s business.
Rietmark always aims to add value to the basic product we are selling, that is advertisements in the printed Rietmark booklets. By adding services such as the Business Directory on our website, as well as designing and printing of flyers, business cards and other office stationery, we want to assist busy entrepreneurs to market their businesses. In the same way your business could also offer extra services to your current customer base, thereby making them more dependent on you, and more loyal.