One of the biggest reasons clients take their business elsewhere is that they feel you don't value them as clients and that you're indifferent to their needs.
I'd like to share a couple of recent experiences that illustrate the point.
Let's start with the not so exceptional…
Recently we were at a major event where the speaker was excellent. During the weekend we decided to buy a couple of his CD sets.
Imagine our horror when we tried them out and found that his voice sounded a bit like Mickey Mouse. It appeared that the tracks on the CD's had been somewhat sped up to make them fit on 2 CDs.
On contacting the events company, we were told that all sales were final and that no one else had complained, and that the speaker did speak very fast anyway. Oh and maybe our equipment was faulty.
Then came the circular argument. We believed the CDs were faulty (or to be more specific, the recording), and they didn't.
Net result was a major fight. They refused to back down and we were left with CDs that we couldn't listen to. (The high pitched and sped up voice tone physically made Barbara feel sick).
Whatever happened to customer service. And when we looked at the event company's website, they had their wonderful values plastered all over - "love, respect and customer service".
The sad part of all this is that the speaker has lost out on over $10,000 worth of follow up business we were seriously contemplating giving him. And due to their indifference, we may never ever tell him. I wonder how many other people who've had experiences like this would feel that way.
Okay, so things don't always go smoothly. But how do you respond to feedback from your clients when they feel you've not done an exceptional job?
We had an interesting situation recently where we gave a supplier some negative feedback as to his team's performance. From his reaction, we got the perception that he really didn't want to hear it. (Now this may only be our perception, but perception is, as they say, reality).
Subsequently we still gave them a chance, and they stuffed up badly. We then had to run around and fix the mess.
The upshot is that we are silently taking our business elsewhere. The company will never know unless they ask, and even if they do, I'm not sure they'd want to know the truth. They were indifferent about us, so we're equally indifferent about them.
So having just had a couple of these negative experiences, imagine my delight at dealing with a truly professional organisation.
A couple of days ago, I decided to buy some Voice Over IP hardware. I looked on the net and found a company in Melbourne.
I needed some help on models so hit the "Live Chat" button. Within seconds, there was someone on the line. I asked about a model, it was on backorder. They then immediately offered me a more expensive model (for the same price if I ordered that day) and said there was one in stock.
I got back to them about half an hour later and accepted their offer. This was around 1pm.
A chap actually rang me late afternoon and said the original model I wanted had just come in and did I want that instead? I asked which one he'd buy and it was the more expensive model - I asked if they'd honour the original discount and "absolutely".
The item was shipped that night and in my hands the next morning.
All through the process I was kept informed via email as to the status.
There's no indifference here! Will I do business with them again? Absolutely! Will I recommend them - well, I just have - check the link above.
So in conclusion, if you're in business, are you providing really exceptional customer service and how would you really know if most people won't take the trouble to give you feedback unless you ask?
Our customer surveys are one answer and are providing some exceptionally valuable feedback to clients.
Some clients have found their perspective was 180 degrees out. (Where they thought they'd done a not so good job, the client thought they were exceptional, and in other cases, there were rankling issues that led to a loss of trust - and further business.)
Forewarned is forearmed. What you don't know WILL hurt you!
If you really care about your clients, you'll ask them what they think of you (or better yet, ask us to do it for you as most people won't tell you the truth, but they will tell a complete stranger).