This week Malcolm has handed over the ‘thoughts for the weekend’ to me. As the only partner at A4G not directly involved in marketing, I’ve spent the past four months doing whatever it takes to help the clients I look after whilst acting as teacher to a surprisingly patient and understanding 9-year-old.

Whilst it’s not an experience I would want to repeat, it’s been a great opportunity to really think about the ways we deliver services to our clients and how they deliver their services and products to their customers. It’s been a chance for some reading as well and I’ve been working my way through a book called “Start with Why” by Simon Sinek, an American author and motivational speaker.

As you know, customer service is simply defined as the assistance and advice provided by a company to those people who buy or use their products or services.

The definition doesn’t mention anything about the standards that are expected from customers but I think we would all agree that there is a significant difference between great customer service and mediocre customer service – great customer service builds loyalty, it encourages your customers to buy more as they may come back to your business more frequently and can help with pricing your products or services too.

As our Head of Compliance Services, my colleague Jack Emerson, correctly pointed out in an internal email this week, there are some companies out there that are for the most part, absolutely bang on with the customer service that they are providing.

I’m sure that over the last four months you’ve had an equally random selection of products as me (business books, moisturiser, cake tins, squishies and nerf gun bullets were just some of the items on my list) delivered by the hard working Amazon delivery drivers and in most cases, less than 24 hours after you ordered them.

Without getting into the alleged ethical issues of some of Amazon’s working practices, the efficiency of their service is quite something. This must have influenced the logistics industry in our country and around the world. Gone are the days when we would be happy waiting a week or more. Expectations have changed and, generally, aside from the odd disaster from time to time, our expectations are being met consistently.

It’s important that you are providing your customers with great customer service but how can you do this? 

You may be aware that there are only two ways to influence human behaviour, you can manipulate it, or you can inspire it. There is a place for both of these in the world and manipulation isn’t automatically negative (as my 9 year old who has been bribed with chocolate biscuits to finish his schoolwork will testify), but this is something that can take many forms and it’s well proven that manipulations work in all areas of our lives.

If you were to look at a service business trying to retain its customers, a manipulation approach that it might take could be dropping the price, running a promotion, or a well-designed marketing campaign which applies peer pressure.

All of these can be quite successful, but they tend to be short term and can be easily replicated by competitors, so the business then needs to find another manipulator to ensure that they remain standing still.

However, if the business can inspire its customers, it’s far less likely to need to rely on manipulation techniques to retain them. A business can only inspire its customers if it knows exactly why those customers are their customers and why its employees are their employees. The business needs to start why, but once it’s figured out the why, the great customer service will follow.

What, How, Why

Often business owners will talk about their business in the above order. They will have loads to say about what the business does, and probably how the business carries out the key tasks but then have much less to say about the why. A business that doesn’t know why it does what it does is always going to struggle to influence customers and will have to rely on manipulators to sign up new clients/retain them.

It’s difficult to guide you about how you might do this in your business, when our newsletters are read by such a wide range of companies. So, I’ll stick close to home for A4G where I could say something along the lines of:

“I’m a partner in an accountancy practice. We complete accounts and tax returns using our great systems to ensure that you as the business owner can sleep at night knowing what your tax bill is. Would you like to become a client?”

This is perfectly acceptable to the right sort business owner but it’s hardly inspiring is it?

However, if I switch it around and start with the why, I could say something like this:

“I’m a partner in an accountancy practice that wants to be the best, all round advisers to our clients, we’re a keen team that all work incredibly hard to deliver proactive advice and we use our great internal systems to ensure the work is completed efficiently and to a high standard. Shall we talk about you becoming a client? “

I’m sure you’d agree that the second sentence is much more inspirational and far more likely to attract long-term clients.

What we can learn from Apple

Another example of a business that offers great customer service is Apple.

But this isn’t the only thing that Apple is good at. They are hugely profitable year on year, are incredibly innovative and have high levels of customer loyalty. Why do they do what they do? Apple’s key focus is on challenging the status quo and thinking differently about situations. They make it clear that this is their mission statement and all the employees buy into this too.

Without knowing the why and communicating this to your team, you aren’t going to be able to inspire them and you’ll be reliant on manipulators to retain customers. It will be irrelevant how good your customer service is as customers won’t build any loyalty. They’ll just switch between providers, buying from whichever one of your competitors is running a promotion.

However, identify your why and communicate your message clearly, be disciplined with the how and ensure that this always stays true to the why. Then carry out the “what” consistently and to a high standard (this is where the great customer service comes in) and you’ll genuinely inspire your customers.

Hopefully my “guest appearance” has given you some ideas on how to deliver Great Customer Service as we emerge from lockdown.

Malcolm will be back next week with the 6th of the ten vital ingredients – Measurement of Performance, whilst I’ll be continuing to help my clients navigate their way through the ongoing challenges that the pandemic has brought.

For now, I’m off to enjoy the first weekend since March where I don’t need to be worrying about schoolwork as it’s officially the summer holidays. Now, where did I put that nice bottle of bubbly that I’ve been saving for a special occasion?

Contact me today!

Caroline Coleman

ACA

Partner

01474 853856

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