Retaining clients: 5 key things to avoid

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Getting new clients through the door can be challenging enough, but how do you ensure that those clients will return time and time again?

Business expert Bradley Taylor, from directory and review website TrueLocal, says customers need three vital ingredients to come back to a business: quality product or service; reasonable prices; and great customer service.

Taylor says, "The first two are black and white, but the latter is a very grey area for so many businesses, particularly small businesses."
He says great customer service requires good communications skills among customer-facing employees, your willingness to solve any customer issues as quickly as possible, and understanding and meeting customer expectations.

"By learning a few simple rules, you can change a customer’s experience from blood boiling to mind blowing.”  
 
At the coalface of interactions between customers and small businesses daily, Bradley shares his insider tips and insights in this guide to common customer service gripes; what they are and how you can avoid them.
 
1. The long wait. Waiting is stressful for many customers, especially those who have booked ahead and are likely facing a busy day. If you’re running behind schedule, give customers an estimate of how long their wait will be and seek their permission. Permission and information is empowering, and customers are likely to feel better about the wait. Delays longer than 15 minutes are too long, and this is where you may need to offer customers something in return for waiting, such as refreshments or a VIP service. 
 
2. The unexpected bill. Adding an additional cost into the job without first checking with the customer are likely customers’ biggest gripes. “There’s little that irks customers more than a final bill that doesn’t match your initial quote, an example being GST tacked onto invoices that wasn’t included in the quote. Again, quoting accurately, seeking customer permission for necessary additional costs, and explaining the need for them, will empower customers.”
 
3. The call centre merry-go-round. Do you put your customers through multiple automated voicemail prompts before directing them to the wrong department? Or do you use an overseas-based call centre? “This is among the worst experiences for customers, and my advice is to broaden their options by offering additional online chat or email services.”
 
4. Don’t make customers the apprentice guinea pig. Think twice before letting a jittery junior be the one responsible for your customer’s experience. “If an apprentice needs to work on a job to gain experience, seek customer permission and be there to supervise. Some may have had poor experiences with apprentices in the past would not return if they are serviced by a junior again, while others are more than happy to – especially if you offer a discount,” says Bradley.
 
5. Rude service. Small business is challenging, and many business owners are guilty of taking their emotions out on customers from time to time. “For some customers, rudeness is a main reason they won’t return, so business owners simply can’t afford to be impolite. If you feel yourself getting emotionally involved or are feeling stressed prior to chatting with a customer, ask a colleague to replace you, or – in extreme cases – reschedule with the customer and incentivise them for being flexible. They may be upset at the cancellation, but will avoid a rude experience that could potentially damage the relationship long-term.”
  • Angela Wong-Liao - Invis Inc on 2014-07-07 5:43:43 PM

    As a veteran business professional for over 40 years, I strongly believe in providing my clients honest, courteous, prompt and exceed expectation standard service level. When I was a bank branch manager 25 years ago, I used to train my staff to treat our customers equally and with respect, despite the customers' appearance because we can never judge a person by ONLY THEIR APPEARANCE. As a result, I managed to build a big deposit and lending portfolio for the branch. As a rule of thumb, I will never treated other people the way that I do not want other people to treat me.

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