A few months ago, I visited my local car shop for a tune-up. When I went to pay for the service, I encountered an employee alongside a first-time supervisor. The supervisor was noticeably anxious about his employee handling the new payment system and was engaging in several micromanaging behaviors. At one point, I addressed the supervisor as “Sir”. A remarkable transformation ensued. Almost immediately, he stopped micromanaging his employee and, donning a new sense of confidence, fixated on providing friendly, caring customer service. What a world of difference.
We all like to feel valued and respected. Relationship building is the cornerstone of effective leadership. Yet far too many executives focus on building relationships within their own company walls and neglect the importance of external relationships for themselves and their employees. As an executive, the strength of your relationships with your customers and clients can prove just as impactful as your relationships with your coworkers.
Here are 3 steps you can take to deliver exceptional customer service and build authentic, long lasting client relationships.
1. Be honest
It really is the best policy. Whether you work at a B2B or B2C firm, your customers value honesty. If you evade the truth or communicate with insincere flattery when engaging with customers, they’ll quickly lose trust in you. A 2014 study conducted by Cohn & Wolfe found that honesty is the number one quality customers demand of large brands. As an executive, it’s critical for you to establish an aura of authenticity in all aspects of your business. Communicate openly about your products and services, environmental sustainability measures, data protection policies, potential data breaches, and relationships with supply chain partners. Above all, always stay true to your word. People are always attracted to the truth.
2. Show appreciation
Just like all your employees, your customers want to feel appreciated. Far too often there is an iron fence separating businesses from their customers. It’s no surprise that, according to research by NewVoice, 53% of customers switch doing business with a company because they feel unappreciated.
Showing appreciation shouldn’t be a tedious chore. According to customer experience researcher, Esteban Kolsky, 11% of customer churn can be prevented if a business simply reaches out to its customers. It’s well worth the effort. Reach out to your key customers and clients with the sole objective of forging a stronger relationship (not just securing a deal). Send them a simple thank you email or better yet, a handwritten note to tell them how much you value their business.
3. Acknowledge your mistakes
We all make mistakes. Customer and client service issues are bound to materialize. The companies that are able to swiftly recover are those that admit their mistakes. According to a 2016 article published in Small Business Trends, 60-70% of customers will do business with a company again if it deals with a customer service issue fairly, even if the end result is not in the customer’s favor. The key is to show empathy.
Our brains are hard-wired to recall negative experiences more vividly than positive ones. Clifford Nass, a professor of communication at Stanford University, explains, “Almost everyone remembers negative things more strongly and in more detail.” If you attempt to shift the blame, you’ll risk losing the respect of your customers and clients. Swallowing your pride won’t give you indigestion.
As an executive, regardless of how often you are required to interact with customers and clients, it’s imperative that you emphasize building strong relationships. An executive coach can assist you in developing and honing your relationship-building skills. Role-playing and other coaching activities aimed at helping you develop your communication skills will enable you to forge strong and enduring relationships. Regardless of your seniority level, customer service should be a priority. CEO of Zappos, Tony Hsieh, is known for working customer support lines alongside his employees. He’s spot on in stating, “Customer service shouldn’t just be a department, it should be the entire company.”
Nadine Greiner, Ph.D. provides Executive Coaching and Human Resources solutions. Her mission is to make the executive experience exceptionally enjoyable and effective. She believes that the world needs great leaders, and has dedicated her career to helping them.
As an organization psychologist and former corporate CEO, Dr. Nadine understands the pressures and demands executives face. She offers her clients the high expertise that only comes with three decades of consulting success, and a dual Ph.D. in Organization Development and Clinical Psychology. Dr. Nadine is an in-demand speaker, teaches in doctoral programs, and coaches other consultants. She is the author of two books: ‘The Art of Executive Coaching: Secrets to Unlock Leadership Performance’, and of ‘Stress-less Leadership: How to Lead in Business and in Life’. amazon.com/author/nadinegreiner