Having a customer service philosophy refers to the ways in which you think about and develop your business. Your service philosophy is the total of all the strategies you employ to deliver a high-quality service that “blows your customers away.” In previous articles of the Reporter, we’ve described how to market your services. But it’s important to remember that you need an excellent service to market because no amount of marketing will sell a service that’s not good. You may fool people for a while with your dazzling marketing strategies, but word will get out if your service is not up to snuff.
If you offer a professional service, you must deliver good service. You can market your service as “the best in town,” but if you perform below standard, you will not sustain your customer base. This article will help you develop ways to approach customer service to create a winning business.
Create a Customer Service Blueprint
The first step in developing a top-notch professional service is to identify every point at which you make contact with the public, a process called “blueprinting” your business process. Blueprinting is a type of mapping that shows you all the points of contact at which you can enhance your customer service.
Here’s how to make your own blueprint: Draw a vertical dotted line down the middle of a piece of paper. Label it as the “line of visibility” or “line of interaction.” On one side of this line, write the section or sections of the public with whom you interact. On the other side of the dotted line, draw a flowchart showing the flow of your business. Draw an arrow to connect the points between the public and your business to show each time they interact. Each point of contact is an opportunity to offer exceptional customer service. Most home inspection companies have very simple blueprints for this process.
The figure shows a typical home inspection company’s blueprint for customer service. You might have a completely different chart for your relationship with real estate professionals, however, which might include items like making office presentations, calling agents, having lunch with agents and so on.
Point of Contact = Service Opportunity
What’s the point of blueprinting your business operations? It forces you to think about a strategy for every point at which you interact with the public. Each of these points is an opportunity for you to create exceptional, memorable service. Again, the figure shows an example of the thought process.
In our sample blueprint, report delivery is one of the significant points of contact. Let’s say that you mail your reports to your clients so that your clients receive the report without getting any personal contact with you. What can you do to spice up this aspect of your business? Let the brainstorming begin. You can send the report by courier, deliver the report in person and spend time discussing it with the client, email the report or upload the report to a website and email a link and a password to the client. The report could have built-in links to documents that contain more information about the conditions described. A floating document box could allow the client to type in questions as he or she reads the report. After reading the report, the client’s “questions document” gets emailed to you for a response.
The key to effective brainstorming is writing down your ideas without criticizing them as you go. For example, the last idea above is fairly elaborate and might cost a lot to set up. Don’t worry about it. Just write down the ideas, no matter how difficult or even ridiculous they might seem. You’ll have time to reject them in the next step. Brainstorming is a creative process, whereas evaluating each idea is an exercise in logic. If you mix logic with brainstorming, it will stiffle your creativity.
The next step is to consider each idea, evaluating it based on the impact the strategy will have on your clients, the cost of implementing the idea and the time commitment it will require.
Let’s evaluate the idea of sending the report by courier. If you give your client a summary on site, they may not have a sense of urgency about receiving the report. Sending the report via courier has little advantage and little impact, and it will consume a signicant amount of profit from each inspection. These days, people are used to the idea of receiving soft-copy versions of the report.
Now, let’s look at the website idea. Implementing a dynamic website reporting system may be expensive, but if it creates an extraordinary point of distinction for your company, it could launch your business to levels you never thought possible.
Spend Money to Make Money
Each idea has advantages and disadvantages. You need to weigh the long-term benefits, factoring your client’s needs into the equation. Yes, you will save money if you decide not to implement a dynamic website system, but a dynamic site imparts distinction to your company and might make customers happy. Customer satisfaction leads to referrals that lead to increased business volume. More business means you can pay for your site. Once the initial costs are covered, websites are relatively easy and inexpensive to maintain. You can’t always calculate the benefits on the basis of cost alone. There are returns from customer satisfaction that don’t always show up immediately as revenues.
In this example, we made a key assumption—that we know what the customer wants. This is a typical, but dangerous, assumption. It’s amazing how wrong we can be when we assume what customers want. For example, what if your customers think that posting their report on a website violates their privacy?
Basically, we have to be careful with our assumptions about our clients. We must make decisions based on carefully considering many possible viewpoints that our client might have.
Let’s pause here for now. We’ve discussed providing excellent service by brainstorming various possible business strategies.
In next month’s article, we’ll look at developing your ability to have the customer’s perspective in mind, with a discussion around a customer-centric business model.