Customer service is understanding and memorizing all your business relationships to the extent that you can anticipate the stimulus vs response gap
The highest common factor in best client experiences has a thing in common, which is to go beyond what clients expect. Simply put – going above and beyond not missing out on a chance to satisfy customers.
Just share an anecdote, I was an ad operations guy with the backend being my comfort zone. Anything to do with uploading ads, optimisations, ad servers and solving technical queries on performance marketing, was my thing. Besides this, I was always extremely good with people- be it work or personal life, however, I was not self-aware of it. My then boss was for sure as one fine day I was told that I will handle client servicing along with ad operations. I was like -this is not happening! I did not even know what client servicing meant. And today I realize, that was and still is, the best part of my success with people, my teams, managing stakeholders and relationships. I have always viewed people as different sets of protoplasmic content where my endeavor was first always getting to know the human behind the job profile. I used to and still crack that pretty well and that is the reason my understanding is servicing is a ‘feel’ rather than a department.
Yes, this can be coached and imbibed into the certain people, but not all. Servicing is not for everyone and that is an important attribute to identify whenever we build departments like ‘brand solutions’ or ‘client servicing’ in organizations. Another important thing, having knowledge of operations and knowing when to apply what becomes a solid advantage while having conversations which are sensitive from servicing perspective.
However, not for everyone. Solution providers and people with a little bit of obsessive-compulsive disorder have better chances of imbibing.
Today, we do not see any industry where servicing has not been touched or imbibed upon, however, only some invest in structured training programs for this. Maruti, and Microsoft are great examples and many more in different verticals. In very large setups a department is definitely required, however, in the essence of the concept I see it as Feel. Unless one feels this, one can’t discover and evolve in this. It begins by developing your own Unique Relationship Proposition (URP rather than USP)
To come straight the point, one has to feel it intrinsically and be conscious of the feeling. Today, I will talk about what exactly is Client Servicing and are we tending to lose its essence.
Being involved with almost all departments of a corporate set up, start-ups and having worked in individual capacity, in big teams, small teams, collaborating, firefighting, brainstorming, I realized that there are two essential things that evolved in this process. One is ‘adaptability’ to various environments and mindsets, second is ‘communication’ with both internal and external stakeholders. Deep down, we all know and recognize that the concept is one of the most key elements for any business and the best part, the conscious effort to indulge helps make one evolve as a better human being as well
In daily lives, talks, panel discussions, we usually refrain from talking about this simple subject- Client Support| Customer Support| Customer Service – whatever term we relate to. Why do we talk about it less? Well, I believe one – we probably don’t want to talk about it because it does not actually have an algorithm. And yes, the thought that how do we measure it? What KPI’s do we put? How do we improve it? And second – because it may be something that is taken for granted.
What is it?
My experience says that customer service is understanding and memorising all your business relationships to the extent that you can anticipate the stimulus vs response gap, the thin line between a follow-up and irritating follow-up along with the ability to withhold sending good morning messages every morning but not missing to drop in a ‘hello, hope you are doing well’ on important dates and casually in between without any business objective till the moment that will come when a conversation has better chances of converting. I do not believe in good or bad memory. If we really want to remember something, we do find a methodology. It’s the effort that lacks to keep the thread intact at all times, in all times zones. Well, that’s why laptops and mobiles were invented in the first place – to keep connected where we want and where we should. Some of the best sales people that I know are extremely good with listening and understanding their customers and know the thin line of when to followup and how to followup. Genuine empathy is important, that I think from your lens as well which is nothing but empathy.
I have come across client servicing representatives who at times closed a deal just on the basis of the trust, right questions and convincing without sounding that you are trying to convince.
How can we get better at it?
Again, don’t try to define the next level. Feel the next level. It is a ‘high’ getting to know the pulse of your clients. How to speak with each one of them, how to engage each one of them, how to build trust , when and where to empathize, how to articulate yet speak from the heart, that even if they are not able to take your call, they will ensure they call you back. The next level is – think hospitality and observe carefully. Be an observer. Whenever I go out to hotels, restaurants of any kind, I get to learn each time. Allow me to share two restaurant experiences in brief.
A famous Chinese joint in Delhi. One thing I noticed apart from extremely well-presented food and courteous staff, the one staff who was allocated to my table, he was at such a comfortable distance and not staring but making sure, he exactly knew when to come with a pleasant smile and ask what I wanted and what he could do better to serve. This happened 3 times, flawlessly where I did not need to signal him to come to my table. What went good? To me, he is an observer, someone who takes waiting on tables from the heart and someone who has trained himself to understand the pulse of various customers. Second experience- an Italian joint in San Diego, this person comes and greets me in an exuberant yet graceful way, engaging me in a conversation whole three minutes till he found me the table of my choice, not before he took me around the restaurant for a quick tour. In the process he asked me some 4 to 5 questions which I realized later was to understand me more in those minutes, make me feel at home and make me want to expect more on next level service that I was about to experience. That’s daring and then he comes and talks me confidently into freezing down on 3 options (he knew my taste buds during that initial conversation. I ordered one but asked him if they could customize the dish slightly. He told me with a beam on his face which was something like – Indeed, it would be good for our kitchen to have the opportunity to customize this dish for you in whatever way you may want. He nailed i.
How do we measure it?
The strange thing is many places leaders have a separate sales department who are not essentially relationship nurturers. For a separate client servicing department, the sales representative must also have frequent conversations with the servicing person as to ‘how the sale was done’. A process of 360-degree feedback internally and externally also acts as a catalyst .If there must be any expectation, it is this – what can I do to make this relationship better and last longer and longer. The fact is actual businesses may not happen every day (except the share market), either way it works on trust and takes bit of time as it is a process, however it is entirely up to the individual how fast one wants to weave this. Making your Network Your Net Worth is the mantra.
Where to draw the line?
This gets tricky, however, not very difficult. First -don’t get into personal space or lives unless your client lets you get into it. Second – respect the time, not go talking on and on. Third – You will only be able to do the second point well if you have clarity of thought along with punctuation marks in your mind along with the pace at which you speak. Fourth- Soft skills- primary of these skills is one basic, that is first ask if it is a convenient time to speak, or how much time you are meaning to take on the call. Fixing up prior is usually better wherever possible. Fifth – Summarize the discussion so that both parties are clear. I have seen many people prefer leaving items open-ended may be because of some fear factor. But my take- close, close, close conversations. Ideally, knowing your shot
Clarity of Thought, Direction, Pace and Agility is a power combination.
As Steve Jobs maintains – Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. So, one should stay coachable, have a solution-driven approach and be ready to work like a ‘commando’ or collaborate with people wherever it may be required. That’s because client servicing is not just about a term that is used- if done right, it has tremendous potential to build a business around the centripetal force of Return on Relationship. As someone said – Nothing worth having comes easy. Have patience and keep working towards it honestly.
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