Client service is so integral to the DNA of some companies that they are renowned and revered for their service excellence. Online retailer Zappos, Nordstrom department store and sports outfitter REI come to mind, as does Rackspace, which has gone so far as to brand its “results-obsessed customer service” as Fanatical Support.
Yet, in most business-to-business purchases, decisions often hinge on functionality and price while a vendor’s client service track record is relegated to the back seat. By the time the contract is signed, it’s too late. Bad client service will continue to haunt an otherwise good decision for years.
That’s not to say that client service should drive a purchase decision. But, it can be a powerful differentiator when weighing attributes of companies with otherwise similar offerings. As a result, client service should be on your mind whether you are vetting a vendor’s system for internal use or looking to expand your firm’s client base.
Success for the long term
Functionality and price are tenuous building blocks for establishing long-term relationships. How you treat clients is the glue that pulls the package together and keeps it from crumbling. In other words, focusing on client service is smart business practice. Research bears this out. One such report by McKinsey on customer service in insurance says, “companies that offer consistently best-in-class customer experiences tend to grow faster and more profitably.” And this generally holds true regardless of industry.
Client service, which includes quick turnaround on requests, knowledgeable professionals, timely resolution to problems, understanding client needs and a can-do attitude, greatly influences overall client satisfaction. Dedication to client service sends a clear message: your business is important to us. Companies passionate about client service are likely to approach other aspects of the business relationship with equal fervor. So, how do you deliver an exceptional client experience along all paths of the client journey?
Be proactive – Know your clients – their business, their goals and their pain points – so that you stay one step ahead and can deliver solutions that provide real business value.
Be part of the solution, not the problem – Even with the best laid plans, things can go wrong. Stuff happens. Your client doesn’t care whose fault something was if they can’t get their reports in time for an important meeting. Focus on the solution, even if it’s a temporary workaround. And address all issues with empathy and a sense of urgency.
Make it a team effort – An exceptional client experience cannot be delivered in a vacuum. Go beyond the help desk and instill a culture of service excellence from the top down. All members of your firm need to be equally committed and dedicated.
The bottom line is that client service matters. More importantly, you should view it through two different lenses: how it impacts your client relationships and how it should inform your decision when selecting vendors. To grow your business and stand out from the crowd, ensure your client service shines. And, if you’re in the market for accounting and reporting software, be sure to look beyond the numbers at the company’s client service track record. It can make all the difference.