When managing your relationship with a customer, it’s easier to transform the things you “should” do into the things you “must” do when you remember this simple fact - nothing else happens without them. Soft skills are every bit as important as tech skills, perhaps more so. Mastering soft skills can be what transforms your Portfolio Professional business from good to great.
A customer is the most important person in your working life. For anybody who delivers any kind of professional or other service this is a great and simple truth. Without a customer there is no business and no work for you to do. Everything just stops.
When managing your relationship with a customer, it’s easier to transform the things you “should” do with a customer into the things you “must” do when you remember this simple fact - nothing else happens without them. You know you should must:
- Respond quickly when a customer reaches out to you
- Be pleasant and positive when communicating with a customer
- Never tell a customer they are wrong, but find a way to make them right
- Communicating consistently and proactively with a customer
- Keep your customer fully informed regarding the progress of their work
- Constantly checking to make sure your customer is satisfied with your progress
- Confirm complete satisfaction with the customer after the work is finished
You know you must “fix” the customer first!
What Does “Fix the Customer First” Really Mean?
Fixing the customer first means making sure that their perception of the current situation is accurate and not misinformed. This remains true even if the current situation is not good. It is every bit as important to make sure that customers are clearly informed and kept up to date on negative news as well as positive. Any attempt to conceal bad news, or “keep the customer in the dark” will very likely lead to disaster and the loss of a valued customer.
Whenever you must convey bad news it is also incumbent upon you to describe your plan to rectify the situation. Most customers don’t expect instantaneous results and feel far more confident and comfortable when kept informed about how their problem will be solved. When you reach out to a customer and tell them the bad news along with your intended actions you will find almost all customers react very positively. If, on the other hand, your customer calls you to ask what’s going on, that bad news becomes nearly catastrophic in their perception.
It is those perceptions that you must be concerned with and must manage very carefully. A person’s perception of a situation doesn’t always match reality. If the customer calls you and you truthfully inform them about the situation, their perception may still be that you are not being forthright with them. Why didn’t you call them? What aren’t you telling them? Skepticism is part of human nature.
First and foremost, remember that you cannot change anyone else’s mind. You also can’t be certain that you know what’s going on in their mind. You should never assume that you do.
You should confirm that you do.
To learn what someone is thinking, the most powerful tool you have is to always be asking questions.
To learn what someone is thinking, the most powerful tool you have is to always be asking questions. First of all, asking questions is a great way to demonstrate your interest and concern. More important, in the case of managing perceptions is that your questions help the customer think about their perceptions, and then articulate them to you. This gives you the opportunity to respond to the customer and offer evidence that they may be misinformed. Never “wrong.” At the very least you will plant the idea that their concern may be misplaced.
Managing Customer Expectations
Expectations can only be managed in advance. Once something has occurred you are pushing the stone uphill to try to “explain” it. Let your customer know in advance what your plan is, how long you think it may take, what could possibly delay resolution, and share any information that encourages your customer to have confidence that their problem will be resolved as promptly and thoroughly as possible.
Earning a Great Reputation Goes Beyond Tech Knowledge
Stories of great customer expectation managers are many and legendary. Sometimes the least technically talented provider in the team may be the one most frequently requested by customers, simply because their proactivity and constant communication have planted the perception with customers that they are “the best.”
As a Portfolio Professional, your ability to drive more business for yourself is predominantly based upon your reputation. When you don’t manage customer expectations and perceptions assertively the best outcome you can anticipate is having a fairly neutral reputation. The worst outcome for you is customer distrust, which may become irrecoverable.
In the service industry, proactive customer service abilities are called “soft skills”. Some service contractors have disdain for “soft skills.” Don’t fall into that trap. Soft skills are every bit as important as tech skills, perhaps more so. And the best news is that soft skills are not hard to learn and can be what elevates your Portfolio Professional business from “Good-to-Great™”.
Talk to your coaches at Techadox to learn more about managing customer expectations with superior soft skills. Your reputation will thank you!