Customer service isn’t just for customers. Create loyal clientele that keeps coming back for more by just being you.
In today’s market, consumers are bombarded with options. In my current line of work, my customers are my yogis, my ESL students, my SEO employers, and my real estate clients. In my previous career I worked as an Academic Manager for a large for-profit university. Then, my customers were my employees, my bosses, my peers, and my students. If you want to be successful, you have to treat all of your coworkers and clients as customers. Here are few tips I’ve found immensely successful at gaining trust, retaining a client base, and enjoying my job.
1. Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty. There is no task to small or too big for your education/position/privilege/et cetera. You’re never too good to scoop out coffee grounds from a school coffee machine. Master’s degree or no master’s degree! (If you’re a millennial, check this Huffington Post article. I feel your pain, but you’ve gotta let it go!)
2. You’re working for them. They’re not working for you. Your job is to serve your constituents. Sometimes, especially in education, we forget that our paycheck only comes because the people we are helping are sitting in the chairs and coming back for more. As an independent contractor, it has never been more obvious that when I remind myself that I am working FOR my clients and students, they come back for more. My lessons are stronger, richer, and more memorable to the students. My yoga sessions are more dynamic and fluid. There is no coincidence here. I’m checking my ego – it’s about them – not about me. Want a good book? Check out one of his.
3. Talk to your clients. Really talk to them – and then listen. Who are they? Besides being the people that you spend your time with, sell your product to, teach something new, and so on – your clients have full-blown lives outside of your business. Sometimes we embrace tunnel vision and forget this ever-present truth that we already know;. Every new student, employee, client I meet – I commit their name to memory. If this is hard for you, as it is for most people, try this.
4. Build your knowledge base – you are the expert. Who would you rather go to? A newbie personal trainer who may hurt you or a personal trainer with years of experience and extensive knowledge of the human body? I agree! I’m not going to the newbie – unless I don’t know he or she is a newbie. The more you know, the more you are trusted with peoples’ money and personal investments (be they financial or time investments). So take a continuing education course, take a workshop, read a leadership book. You need to know about your field and subsidiary fields. For example, I teach English. I can benefit from learning how to coach to TOEFL, to different adult personalities, learning how to engage a small group, etc. Become you clients’ own personal SME (subject matter expert).
5. Work on you. Think of your job as parenting – and your clients are your children. You cannot build a strong relationship with your constituents unless you are solid in what you are offering.
Let’s be clear here – whatever you’re selling – you’re really selling yourself. Do you believe what you’re saying? Are you passionate about the service you’re offering? It comes through in your words and your actions and people can sense it. Consumers in the 21st century are crazy savvy and can spot a liar. Also, keeping this in mind – the old adage “Do as I say, not as I do” doesn’t fly with kids, right? Nor will it fly with your clientele. If you want to build long-lasting relationships with people who trust you and support your business, you have to walk the talk. No pretending. No pretense.
6. Keep it interesting! No, seriously – this is huge! My dear old Dad, a manager for a steel purchasing and sales company in Phoenix, has been with the company for over 30 years. He still enjoys his job. I still laugh when I tell people about my Dad and his work. He pranks his employees – on a consistent basis. He keeps laughter in his business and instills a sense of lightness to an otherwise fairly humdrum workday. His employees love him and he has an extremely low turnover rate in a fairly transient industry. He also grosses the top sales each year. Year after year. Granted, not all work settings are appropriate for pranking – so please assess your situation before following my father’s lead. People like to be around happy people. It’s that simple. So have fun and people will come back for more.
“October first, of this year marks 34 years since I walked in the door of my company. I was without single thought of gray hair and I figured I’d stick around until I got bored. Well, I’m not bored yet…”
Try it out! Let me know how it goes! Best of luck!