Communication Key to Good Customer Service

FEB 13, 2013 5:41pm ET

I am crazy about good service, and love to build service relationships!

Almost all businesses are service businesses today. From our doctors and dentists to our accountants and attorneys, to our chosen car dealer or mechanic to handy man to roofer, all provide a level of professional service to us, the client/customer. In turn, we as clients/customers can vote with our money for whom we will do business with, and we can take our business elsewhere when our expectations are not being met and we will no longer tolerate bad service.

But how we define good service is different for each of us, and unless we establish our personal expectations of what constitutes good service for us, the person or business trying to meet our needs may miss completely.

How do we ensure we get, and give, good service?

I observe in myself and others that frustration is at the root of all bad client experiences and while all kinds of things can cause that frustration, the only thing that can mitigate it is good communication.

Imagine you are waiting for a delayed flight to take off, and the person manning the desk announces to all that they will be giving you updates every 15 minutes by email, making announcements and sending texts to keep you posted as to flight status. That would ease your frustration at waiting, even though the flight would still be delayed, because you would be kept informed throughout the process.

When we don't get, or give, good service−I believe that most people in the service business want to meet the expectations (rather than demands) of their clients but are not always sure the best way to do that. And once again in my experience it comes down to good communication.

For example, I recently started seeing a massage therapist for some back issues and had to cancel an appointment due to illness. She called and left a voice mail to re-schedule, then she emailed as well. I responded immediately to the email, and thanked her for thinking to email because I hate the phone! I made another appointment and asked that she always use email to communicate with me.

I suddenly realized that it is my job to educate “my preferred vendors” how I want to be served, including something as simple as how best to communicate information to me.

Now, you could say that it is the service provider’s responsibility to ask me how I want to be communicated with. But I am happy to help coach my favorite people to greater success and support my own client experience at the same time!

In the mortgage industry (primarily a referral business) we strive to provide a very high level of client satisfaction to not only ensure a good experience for our clients, but to ensure that they will speak highly of us and refer us to others as well. But we miss sometimes.

Years ago I received great ratings on a customer service survey from the borrowers and the listing Realtor but not from the selling Realtor. When I called her to ask why she was unhappy with my service, she claimed it was because I did not update her frequently enough. She was right!

I have a “You will not hear from me unless there is an issue” policy, based on the idea that Realtors are busy and don’t want to be interrupted with updates all the time. Many people love this policy, but not this agent! She wanted to be updated, regularly.

Not only should we ask our clients and referral partners what their expectations are with regard to service and communication, but we should also educate them as to what they can expect from us to ensure they have the best experience with us, too.

At Fairway, we have a robust automated Borrower Communication Email System in place that alerts both borrowers and realtors to each milestone in the mortgage process as it is achieved. In addition, our policy is to respond quickly to questions throughout the loan process via a set call time each day dedicated to client questions. Even still, we need to be mindful of what our individual client’s preference is with regard to communication.

We cannot always know what a client perceives as good customer service if we do not ask them! Let’s change the customer service dynamic through better communication. Share expectations and watch your business and professional relationships thrive!

Simple tips for good communication and great customer service−

For clients and customers:

•            Communicate expectations at the beginning of the transaction

•            Reward those who meet your expectations (refer them to others, fill out that survey, review them on Yelp!)

•            Don’t do business with those who repeatedly do not meet your expectations especially if you have communicated them clearly!

For service providers:

•            Establish client expectations up front

•            Meet them! And communicate immediately if any problems arise

•            Show appreciation to clients for their business!


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