Client service: keeping it real
We all know the importance of strong client relationships – and over the past few decades, increased emphasis on the importance of customer service has elevated relationship management into a science. Businesses are continually pressured to deliver faster and more cheaply, by clients whose expectations have been raised, driven by technology advances and a tough business climate as well as their increasing sophistication as buyers.
In a highly competitive environment, it’s easy to be tempted to go all out to capture and keep new business. But how far is too far and what do you need to bear in mind?
Make sure new business opportunities are right for you
One of the first rules of survival is to make sure that the type of business you accept and the terms are right for you and your clients. Pursuing contracts which are not profitable benefits neither side, sometimes leading to financial risk for suppliers and poor service delivery for clients.
And of course, building strong client relationships is vital. Whatever the theories expounded, the basics remain the same:
- Take the time to listen to and really understand your client’s requirements.
- Deliver what you promised when you promised.
- Keep clients informed.
Make sure your staff fully understand and are on board with your service values – the point of sale/delivery experience can make or mar client relationships.
Be realistic about delivery
It’s important to be realistic when agreeing delivery dates. Working to impossible deadlines places undue stress on staff and can lead to disappointment when schedules are not met. Ensuring good service is a two-way process – clients also need to make sure they plan ahead sufficiently and take into account stated delivery timescales before placing an order.
Passing on price increases
The seemingly relentless cost increases in for example, raw materials and fuel, have added to the pressure on profit margins. For suppliers, the critical question is – do you pass on the increases to your client or not? And if so, to what extent?
How do you know if you have got it right? If you are as close to your clients as you need to be, they will soon let you know!