Monday, 15 November 2010

How do we connect with our clients?

Spent a fascinating day on Friday at a workshop hosted by Nottingham Trent University Business School.  All about customer service or as was decided by the end of the day customer care.

Perspectives on customer service came from three different sectors:
  1. Retail
  2. Private care sector 
  3. Local authority
On the table where I sat we had representatives from the Probation Service, a call centre, and an academic who also ran a small company.

My interest in going was general at the beginning.  As a writer for business connecting and selling to customers/clients is what it's about for me.  But what came out during the day was how important the relationship now is with the client and how the intangibles of a transaction can be as important as the actual delivery of a product or service.

How you deliver is paramount.

Professer Kay Cassidy who hosted the workshop showed us an example of how an airline dealt badly with a passenger when they damaged his guitar and how they paid when he not only wrote a song about it but publicised it via the social media networks.  The airline saw a dash of cancellations and a drop in their stock market value.  Quite a severe rap on the knuckles.

Whether we like it or not and many companies still don't accept this is the case, the balance of power is shifting.  We're voting not only with our wallents but our opinions.  I recently bought some business cards from Moo and was so pleased with the experience that I've praised them to everybody who now has one of the cards.  Even if those people don't immediately use Moo, they'll certainly remember the name.

Much of what we discussed in the afternoon was about managing people's expectations and being honest about what we can do.  Of course you'll always lose sales to those who are cheaper.  But many people have intangible needs that shopping only by price can't fulfil.  What came across also is that we have different criteria for different goods and services.  As writers and suppliers, that too keeps us on our toes.  We can't assume that if we have two products, our prospective customer is using the same measure to judge them.

It's a challenging market for all of us out there.  The more we can arm ourselves with information and understanding about what our prospects need the more likely we are to get it right.  This was borne out by te success of the care company, established only four years ago but already growing steadily.  That's because their basic stance is to listen to what their clients want, not try to force an already established system on the clients.

Exciting times ahead for those who are prepared to take up the challenge and maybe dismal ones for those who won't change their 'we know what you need' stance.

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