Client service excellence – with more than a smile

Clients are more demanding – and more fickle – than ever before. One false move on your part, and they’re gone. Nikki Heald reveals how to keep them happy, and keep them on your books!

Client service excellence – with more than a smile
So, you think you’re a great service provider? You always make sure you smile and have a pleasant demeanour. A friendly disposition and a smile are certainly important; however, in today’s competitive market a smile is just not enough. The way we treat our clients is emerging as a critical differentiator for brokers and can provide a competitive advantage.

Today’s clients are savvy, less loyal and more demanding. They realise they have a choice and that you are not the only broker to choose from. Additionally, client awareness around service standards has also increased. Good, ordinary and average is simply not good enough. It’s about providing an experience for your client that makes them want to come back, as opposed to being forced or compelled to come back.  

So, what is service excellence? Exceptional client service is about going beyond what is realistically expected. It’s about surprising – and often delighting – your clients; turning them into enthusiastic referral sources who will stick with you not only because you do great work but because of the value you bring. As brokers, imagine if you could get existing clients to tell others about the value you offer? The beauty of word-of-mouth referrals is that they save on marketing costs, cold-calling and the time taken to network.

Great service is not just about doing your job but about establishing an emotional connection with your clients. It’s about value-adding and finding ways to be unique. It’s about getting to know them and being heartfelt. Research suggests that emotion influences purchasing decisions six times as much as rationale. So, if something or someone makes us feel good, we are more inclined to buy. Remember, people do business with people they like.

Unfortunately, many businesses believe that delivering exceptional service will cost them too much in staff time, training or developing service standards and procedures. These in-focused organisations are only concerned with company profit and cutting costs, and little thought is given to how to keep clients happy. Additionally, in these organisations staff recognition and retention is low, which significantly impacts on growth and profit. Training yourself or your team on how to deliver standout service is an investment that will reap significant personal satisfaction and reward.

Realistically, bad service is actually more costly to your brokerage than the time taken to provide great service. Poor service influences more than just a negative customer experience – it reduces revenue and drives up costs. It damages public perception, credibility and market reputation. As we all know, a dissatisfied client is more likely to spread the word about a poor service experience than a positive one. Nowadays, unhappy clients will take to social media platforms to spread the word about their disappointment. From a client’s perspective, it’s the little promises you keep that matter most. Returning a phone call, providing information, or simply getting to know them on a personal basis can significantly impact on the relationship?

Providing great service is really about consistency, and realistically, that’s not too difficult for you or your team to achieve. For leaders, it is vital to clearly communicate to your employees the service behaviours that are expected with both internal and external clients. Explain to your team why service excellence matters, not only for the company or client but also for the personal satisfaction experienced in making others feel valued.

So, what are some simple things you can do to enhance service excellence?

Be responsive. Speed is everything, so try to reply to your clients as soon as you can and keep them in the and informed. Procrastination doesn’t help anyone, and you’re going to have to respond sooner or later. May as well do it now!

Take time to listen. Avoid speaking, and really listen to what they’re saying. It’s important you understand what your clients are communicating to you. That way, you will be able to successfully meet their needs and provide the right solution.

Do what you say you’re going to do. One of the biggest gripes in business today is that people simply don’t do what they say they’re going to do. If you say you’re going to do something, then do it! It enhances your professionalism and personal brand, and demonstrates you value your client.

Know your stuff. Your client’s perception is that you are the paid expert. That’s why they’ve come to you to handle their financial affairs. So be sure to keep your skills up to date, and be on top of the game in your profession. Unfortunately, if you convey a lack of knowledge, then you risk ruining your credibility.  

Give a little. If a client asks you to do something that really won’t cost you a lot in time or money, then treat it as an opportunity to go the extra mile. By doing so, you not only have a contented and indebted client but someone who is more than happy to refer to you.

Finally, within the financial services profession brokers really should view their book of clients as their most valuable asset and develop a plan around taking good care of them. Most importantly, develop long-lasting personal relationships by keeping in touch regularly, both in good times and in bad.  

As brokers, you’re not just selling a product but providing expert advices that can significantly impact on people’s livelihood and circumstances. So, if you haven’t given much thought to your service levels, then perhaps it’s time to conduct an audit. Remember, if you don’t bother to make the client feel valued, respected and important, then you can be sure your competitors will!

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