I recently came across an interesting question that every business person should ask their clients: Why are you in this business?
Seems so simple, doesn’t it? So, why should you ask it of your clients? In a nutshell, because it begins an important process for both the client and you, as their business resource. Here are a few more reasons to ask:
- It starts the learning process. By asking a client why they operate a business in their chosen field helps them articulate what is important to them. Once you identify what is important, you can begin to formulate ways to help them be successful.
- It gets the client thinking about his/her current position in the market. Does this position align with where they want to be at this stage?
- It sparks their motivation and helps re-energize their commitment to being successful. This is a good time to reconsider short and long-term goals and strategies.
- It shows interest. By asking this basic question, you show that you care about their business. This interest builds the foundation for sincere, loyal relationships.
- It is plain-ol’ interesting! By understanding the path of the client’s interests, you learn their story, which is just fun to do!
The next time you meet with a client, potential client or colleague, try asking them why they do what they do. See where the conversation brings you. Really listen to their responses. Think about how you may contribute to their business in a meaningful way. I think you will find that it begins not only a very interesting conversation, but deepens your relationship with this individual.
Strong customer service is one of the most important foundations of a successful business. Whether providing a product or service, clients need to have a compelling reason to continue working with you. With summer in full swing, it is a good time to think about laying solid groundwork for next year before the busy fall season sets in. I think it makes great sense to use the month of August to assess your service skills. Once you have an honest understanding of your skills so far, consider ways to boost your customer service this fall. Here are a few easy tips for delivering a positive experience for your clients:
- Make the effort to always answer your phone. If you can’t answer the phone, always return phone calls promptly. If you can’t return a call within a few hours, consider sending a quick email to that person acknowledging their call and letting them know you will be in touch as soon as possible.
- Only make commitments you can keep. Reliability is one of the keys to any good relationship. Don’t overstretch what you can deliver or make promises that you can’t keep. By over delivering, you make a much better impression than by falling short and risk leaving them in a bind.
- Actively listen to your clients and help them in meaningful ways. Don’t assume that you know what they want or need. Ask them and then help guide them to realize their goals.
- Go the extra mile. Thank them for their business, make a helpful connection for them, follow up on a topic you discussed and solve their problems.
There are so many unique ways to deepen the relationships you have with your clients. The only way to know what level of service they value is to ask them. Identify how they wish to conduct business and then find a way to make that work for both of you. Keeping the lines of communication open and honest will help to secure a loyal, long term and meaningful relationship.
I’m sure it varies somewhat depending on industry, but it seems that the proverbial ‘summer business slump’ isn’t as prevalent as it used to be. Clients and colleagues tell me a similar story: ’business is slower, but not slow’. Given the economic downturn of recent years, this is good news for business. My next question probes into how they are using the ‘extra’ time this summer. Here are a few of their answers:
- Reviewing marketing plans and adjusting actionable items for the last quarter of the year.
- Reducing clutter in their workspace.
- Taking some vacation or adding some long weekends.
All of these are great ways to remain productive during a time that may have otherwise been lost. Here are a couple of additional suggestions.
- Reassess the website, including its content and images. Does it still reflect your business goals and speak to your desired visitors?
- Start using social networking as a means to build word of mouth.
- Take contacts, referral sources and other colleagues out to lunch.
- Write an article for publishing in a trade or business journal.
Regardless of how you choose to spend the last month of summer, consider using this time to plan for a successful fourth quarter. By taking time to assess where you have been for the first 7 months of the year, you can see the progress you have made. Based on that progress, adjust your approach or step it up a bit to reach, or exceed your goals.