How happy are your customers? Do you know they are happy, or do you just think you know?
A report by media agency Starcom, presented to the Australian Association of National Advertisers last month, provides a sobering reminder of the dangers of taking clients for granted.
Starcom’s report showed a widening ‘expectation gap’ between companies and consumers, with marketers rating themselves more than twice as highly (106 per cent) as their own consumers did.
Although the report deals with B2C customer interactions, it is arguably even more important to keep clients happy if you are an SME dealing with a limited number of business clients (B2B). For many Australian SMEs in the B2B segment, losing just one valued client would be a disaster, hitting the bottom line far harder than the lost revenues suggest and potentially precipitating a cashflow crisis.
On the flip side, Starcom’s report highlighted the ‘power of positive experiences’ and found that, if a consumer has a very positive experience, they are 10 times more likely to choose that brand. Arguably, the power of referrals and recommendations is even greater in the B2B world, and of course B2B sellers have a real chance to piggyback on the growth of their clients if their service is good enough to help others succeed.
Tips to ensure your business clients are happy with your service
Ultimately, there is no substitute for providing a great product, delivered without hassle, on time and to specification. But even when you have that, it is worth putting in some extra effort to make sure your clients are as happy with your goods or services as they possibly can be. Here are a few extra things that business owners or sales staff should do to make sure there’s no expectation gap between an SME and its clients:
• Communicate regularly and seek feedback: When you have an established business relationship, it’s easy to sail along without really communicating much. Unfortunately, this can lead to problems, especially as your client’s needs gradually change and develop. You should therefore make sure you ‘touch base’ with all clients regularly. Ideally, use a personal touch but also make sure you ask how things are going, how you can help, and what more you can do. Any feedback you do get should be regarded as a valuable resource which can help you improve your service to everyone.
• Set clear expectations: One of the leading causes of business disputes is mismatched expectations. It is therefore crucial that your B2B clients know exactly what to expect, and when to expect it. One way of doing that is by having a clear set of Terms and Conditions which you attach to all offers of business. We have covered the importance of T&Cs – and how to use them – in a previous blog [LINK TO T&Cs BLOG HERE]. Such clarity is always valued by clients and of course, it can also help ensure your invoices are paid on time.
• Go the extra mile: Really good customer service is about anticipating clients’ needs and providing that little bit extra when it really helps. In a B2B scenario, this might involve bringing a delivery forward to help a client meet a big contract; providing them with free advice in your area of expertise; or doing some networking on their behalf.
Happy customers make for a safe and profitable business: just remember not to take any of your clients for granted.