Customer service is always being discussed, from news stories and business books lauding those companies with the best customer service to companies competing with each other by debating which firm can truly provide better customer service than the other. There are a handful of companies that have quite simply become synonymous with outstanding customer service; Nordstrom, Disney, Ritz-Carlton, and Zappos.com to name a few. The real question is – how do you translate that level of customer service to a professional services firm, like a lending institution? When you boil it down, the aforementioned customer service masters, are not that different than a professional service firm. Both are serving clients and both depend on their customers to be successful. Delivering outstanding customer service in a professional services setting isn’t quite as straightforward as having a great return policy or trying to spread Disney magic to your clients. However, it is still about meeting your clients’ needs and some of the same principles apply.
Make it easy for your customers to do business with you.
Take the time to explain what information they need to provide and what you expect of them in a way they will understand. This mean minimizing jargon! Nothing will turn current and potential customers off more than terms and phrases that are unfamiliar.
It is also vital to be clear about your processes and procedures so they know what to expect from you. When it is necessary to implement a change or update a policy, explain in detail why the change is necessary and how it will affect them directly. When both parties understand how things should work, the relationship will be mutually beneficial. Then take it one step further and tell them when they do something right. A lot of time is spent dealing with problems but how much time gets devoted to complimenting customers when they do something right? If they are always timely with reporting and always follow your process, tell them you appreciate them and their business. Surprising clients with accolades – big and small – goes a long way in nurturing your relationship.
Form a good relationship with your clients.
No one wants to be just another transaction to your company or an ID number in your database. How many people are involved in the client relationship? I recommend having a relationship manager who knows the client, understands their business, wants, and needs. This person should be the consistent point of contact from your organization. Dealing with the same person on a regular basis not only provides a personal touch but may also help establish a rapport so each party feels comfortable addressing issues, concerns and roadblocks. Clients don’t want to be bounced around a company seeking help. If the client has one point of contact, he or she always knows who to call.
Your clients want to know they are getting your attention and that you are working to meet their needs. It is important to give timely responses to questions and issues that may arise and not make the client call repeatedly to get an answer. If you can’t give an immediate answer, give them a time frame of when you will respond and make sure you follow through with that promise. BONUS: Clients will be shocked and amazed when you respond in a timely fashion. Responsiveness has become so rare in our culture, it is sure to be rewarded when applied.
Take time to listen to your clients.
We all want to be heard. Clients want to know that when they speak, you listen. It seems simple, but the act of truly listening is a dying art form. In a world filled with constant distractions, the temptation to multi-task is more prevalent than ever. You may not be able to grant every client request but you can be sure you are hearing their concerns. Also, although it should go without saying, be courteous and respectful when communicating with your customers. I know it is not always easy especially when you are working with entrepreneurs that are passionate about their business, but a commitment to remain professional, respectful and calm will always serve you well.
About the Author
Candi Pavliscak serves as Senior Vice President and Chief Risk Officer. She has been involved in the commercial lending industry for more than 25 years and her experience covers credit underwriting, documentation, compliance, and legal review for all asset-based lending and factoring transactions. Candi has spent the last several years developing and managing the daily credit and administration functions of client relationships for Hitachi Business Finance.
Contact Candi here or by calling (248) 658-1100.