Whenever my fellow integrators gather at industry events, the conversation always starts with, "How's business?" The responses are normally the same: "We're doing better than two years ago, but margins are tighter than ever." This begs the question: Although we all rely on our new business for growth, do we spend enough time on those clients who got us there? I suspect not.
As a company with a recurring revenue stream, your existing customer base is one of your most valued possessions. In order to keep those clients, one must all provide the highest level of customer service possible. When you lose a client to the "competition," they don't leave just for price. They leave because they don't see the value they are getting from you. If you show your client, on a regular basis, that they are important to you, you will have a long and happy relationship together.
So how does one accomplish this? Like having a successful marriage, communication is the most important thing. Just like showing your spouse how important they are to you, you need to show the "love" to your customer. There are many ways one can communicate with their clients so as not only to show them this love, but also to make sure their people are providing the highest level of service.
A quarterly or semi-annual newsletter helps your clients know what's going on with your company. They don't have to be elaborate or involved, but outline what's been happening. A project you are proud of, new services you are offering or even a few basic security tips. The main thing is to show the clients you are thinking of them.
Follow-up after every service call and installation with a call to make sure all went well and that they are satisfied. A prewritten basic questionnaire with four or five questions allows you to get a consistent gauge of how things went. When things need to be addressed, ensure thorough action is taken in a prompt manner. Then follow up again to close that loop. Be sure to end each customer interaction by thanking them for their business.
When you receive good reports back from your clients, be sure to issue the employee involved a short note thanking them. Good customer service and communication is driven from the top down.
For those of us with recurring revenue, be it monitoring or service plans, send customers a thank you note on their anniversary. This again is an easy thing to do; a simple thank you without an invoice goes a long away to make the customer "feel loved."
Get out from behind your P&Ls and visit customers. An in-person customer visit, where you thank them for their business without waiving a contract under their nose, carries a lot of weight. Customers, like spouses, are people and people like to be reminded that they are appreciated.
Providing quality customer service is a team sport. Make sure all your employees understand the importance and practice it every day. Hold regular scheduled training meetings with your team. Make sure they all know how to send a consistent message.
With today's economy being akin to a roller-coaster ride, we have to make sure all aspects of our companies run as effectively and efficiently as possible. We must never forget those who helped us get where we are and make sure they know we appreciate them. Customer service, when done right, can be rewarding and allow you to spend many happy anniversaries together.
J. Matthew Ladd is President and CEO of The Protection Bureau, located in Exton, Pa.