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Entries in Customer Service (3)

Thursday
Mar082012

Five Types of Clients and How to Deal with them

By Lucinda Cross {www.lucindacross.com}

When it comes to being an entrepreneur, you can expect to run across a wide array of customers. It takes a lot to knowing them, identifying them, understanding them and then working with them. During my time as an entrepreneur I have run across five main types of clients which have distinct personalities and approaches.

Champion

These are the ones who have skin in the game they have had their ups and downs in business and clearly can identify their needs vs. wants; they also pay well, are easy to deal with, and will often send random gifts of appreciation. They are usually mentally free and understand their position in the marketplace and have made an impact in their industry as an expert and trendsetter.

Tips to working with them

  • Keep open communication and stay in contact!
  • Results are all they want.  Keep with the facts.  You don’t need to convince them of the value you bring, either they need what you have or they don’t.

They are very clear on what their next level is so when approaching a champion makes sure you understand their business model and their motivation. Champions want to stay champions so if you can assist them in marking their territory you will be retained for a large fee, as long as you produce. 

Heavy Weight

These are the type of clients who may have a downfall somewhere or the fear of a downfall happening. They need to be held accountable.  These clients need specific things done in a specific set of time, or they are looking for a product that can do it for them.  This particular client is all about growth and mentally stability.  Heavy weights are very busy and don’t have much time for amateurs so please show up confident and you must be able to articulate the what, why and how you plan to support them with your product or service.

Tips to working with them

  • Be very detail oriented. 
  • Their time is everything so make your communication via email and phone structured and have an outline on what you want to discuss
  • If you are pushing a product make sure you explain to them the warranty, guarantee and the benefits
  • If you are pushing a service make sure you simplify the process, they don’t have time for long, out drawn processes or to dos.
  • Suggestions are key.  Give them suggestions on ways that they can work smarter, shorter and faster.
  • They love random cards and gifts. Remembering their birthday or anniversary will mean getting a long term contract.

Light Weight

These clients value your relationship and are extremely excited but worried about working with you.  To be honest they also expect discounts and freebies.  They are scattered in doing to many things and still trying to find their signature style.  You must be clear with them on the position you will play when it comes to supporting them.  They can easily try to make you do things that are not in the contract and may tend to abuse your time if you allow it.

Tips on working with them

  • Offer a discount that is comfortable with you, this way you are not feeling resentful.
  • Make sure they understand the amount of work that you are doing.
  • Be clear on how much time you are devoting to them and don’t go beyond the time limit.  This will help them appreciate your time.
  • Ask for payment from the beginning, this will avoid being placed in an awkward position.
  • They are easy to befriend you so make sure you seperate personal conversations with professional conversation. Monitor the flow of the conversation and keep business conversation about business and personal conversations about personal stuff. This will help to remind them that you are still a professional.

Feather Weight

These are your business owners who are very attentive and careful.  They take everything seriously and have dealt with some people who may have misled them.  They must be dealt with very carefully and require a lot of hand holding and explaining.

Tips on working with them

  • In this situation you must be professional but also personal.  You can lose them if you are too business like and you can lose them if you are too friendly.  Find a medium.
  • Don’t tell them what to do, make suggestions.  They are mentally and emotionally sensitive so they can smell a phony from a mile away.
  • Keep reaching out to them, they may not buy what you have to offer on the first go round, so you need to continue to market to them over and over and over again, but it will be worth it once they sign on.
  • Deal with these clients like you would a champion.  They want to feel special.
  • Present yourself as the trusted advisor and continue to show off your business “know how”.  They will often ask for advice, ask you to do stuff and you can invoice them for it, as long as you let them know that anything outside the scope of work agreement will be billed.

Golden Gloves

These clients in my experience and observation will try to avoid paying.  They may blame you for things not working out in their favor, they may call you every day for you to explain yourself or why this is working or not working, these clients want you to do everything for them for a ridiculously low price. These clients are in basic training and will come out fighting if they sense you are not people pleasing them.  If you are not in the friendship business then keep I mind you are not in this to make friends you are in this to make a difference and to make money. Don’t get stressed out by irate, non-paying clients who do not want to recognize your value.

How to deal with them

  • Be crystal clear on whether you can support them or not.  Make sure you ask them what their expectations are.  This will help you identify whether this is a client that wants the moon and the stars.
  • Invoice their calls. This will likely limit the amount conversations with no substance and they will spend more time focusing on their business.
  • These clients expect you to answer your phone every time they call so make sure you are clear on your client business hours and advise them to make an appt with you.  Try using www.tungle.me for online scheduling.
  • Give them a contract and a plan of action.
  • If you really want them to pay, present yourself in a professional “Bill Gates” manner.  You must walk like you mean business, talk like you mean business and send professional business email correspondence.

Lucinda Cross is a teacher, an innovator, a change agent and an author. Lucinda uses speaking, training and mentoring to help business moms attract quality clients and grow their business effortlessly by becoming an expert in their field. She is the author of Corporate Mom Dropouts and has a blog by the same name.

Friday
Nov112011

Do You Make Mistakes?

Do you ever make mistakes? Gasp! You do? Me too! We all do! So, why is it so hard for some people to admit it and take responsibility? Mistakes happen, we’re human. So, how do you handle it if you make a mistake that affects one of your best customers?

Good customer service is not that unlike relationships in your ‘real’ life. If you make a mistake that affects someone you really care about, you apologize. It should be the same when it comes to business. First and foremost you must always apologize and it must be sincere. An apology goes a long way.

Then, you can move on to rectifying the mistake. Some mishaps are bigger than others. In some cases an apology and a brief conversation can fix the issue. Other times, you may spend a lot more time mending the relationship.

For instance, if you make a spelling error on an embroidery item that was purchased as a Christmas gift, it could be an easy fix. Apologize and immediately send out a corrected item. But, if the incorrect item only arrived two days before Christmas, it may be impossible to get the new gift there in time.

Aside from bending over backwards to get a corrected item shipped overnight, it may take a little more than an apology to insure that customer returns in the future. Maybe you offer them a free gift card to use at a later time. Or, maybe you create a personalized basket of goodies for them as an unexpected gift. Whatever you do, you’ll want to make sure the customer knows that you value their business.

Good customer service is one thing that often sets small businesses apart from the huge conglomerates. The big stores often have too many customers to take care of all of them, the right way. By offering stellar customer service, you will make the choice to shop small businesses versus the big box stores an easy one for your customers.

Good customer service is often common sense. Simply treat your customers as nicely as you would your own family and friends and your good intentions will make an impression.

Wednesday
Aug112010

Top 5 Components of Professionalism

It’s a given that business owners and employees alike should act in a professional manner. What constitutes professionalism? To a degree, it can be interpreted in different ways. When you own your own business this becomes even more important to be professional and be conscientious of how others view you.  

I believe professionalism directly relates to customer service. And, strong customer service is essential to a successful business. It’s not only important to be professional when it comes to customers, but also when talking with colleagues, business partners, vendors, etc. Image is everything.

Let’s be honest, many of us don’t have a large marketing budget. But, being professional is one free way we can increase our word-of-mouth exposure. On the flip side, if you act in an unprofessional manner, there can be severe consequences. It’s not always true that any publicity is good publicity. If word gets out about a poor interaction it can really harm your business, even for weeks and months to come. 

I’ve put together my top five components of professionalism. These are the things that I think make a strong, professional business person {in no particular order}.

  1. Education:: You don’t need a Ph.D. to be educated about the business world and the company that you run. By doing research and gaining experience in your field you become educated. You will be more respected if you are knowledgeable about your products, competitors and customers. You can never know too much and you should never stop learning.
  2. Kindness:: I’m sure you don’t enjoy dealing with unkind people, so why would you subject your customers and business partners to the same misery? A kind word can go a long way in building respect and trust. Personally, I’m drawn toward kind people. I like to do business with those who genuinely care about me and Market Mommy.
  3. Fairness:: It goes without saying that a dishonest business person is a lousy one. Going above and beyond to be fair when there is a mistake or a misunderstanding can give your customer the extra confidence that they are dealing with a top-notch company.
  4. Humility:: Nobody is perfect; each of us can only do our best. Realizing that, as business owners, we aren’t above our customers, but rather on a level playing field, can go a long way in building relationships. Just as we expect respect, it should be shown to others as well.
  5. Gratitude:: Potential customers don’t have to become customers. Current customers don’t have to remain customers. By showing your appreciation, you can help to ensure that customers will return and recommend you to others. I am appreciative of each of my customers and try to show it with things like thank you notes, referral programs and repeat discounts.

 How do you portray professionalism?