Client service is one of the essential components of a company’s success. Apparently, standards may differ from industry to industry. However, we can single out some universal elements that, if applied, will pay off. Client focus should be an intrinsic part of corporate culture on all levels, and client service processes — consistently developed and reviewed.
Any client service starts with identifying client needs. And number one — easy availability to detailed information about the product and services of a company. A corporate website is essential for brand representation. It should be easy to navigate so that the user can find the necessary information within seconds. A rational approach is to predict concerns and provide answers to questions that may arise in connection to the product or service in advance. For instance, they might be: how exactly will the service be provided? What are quality guarantees? Is a refund possible if the client is not satisfied?
Also, some clients cannot formulate their needs, e.g., in the IT-sphere, a startup with just a product concept without the full functionality description. In this case, it’s the provider’s responsibility to do preliminary research and create a list of features that will be optimal for the client’s business.
That brings us to another aspect — ethical sales. Although upselling might be quite lucrative, demonstrating an intention to save clients’ money and match their exact needs without pushing anything unnecessary is the strategy that wins in the long term.
Quality control is essential both for products and services. Without established and strictly followed QA procedures, any shortcoming might cost a company the hard-gained reputation, and with fierce competition, close the business altogether.
Many industries and service standards there are developing dynamically, and staff training is indispensable to stay competitive. It includes both the upgrade of employees’ professional skills through courses and certification and educating personnel on company culture towards clients, the right communication techniques, etc. Without a doubt, it is an investment that will have generous returns.
Accessibility is another common issue that may lead to frustration. When a problem arises with a product or service, the client should be able to ask for help 24/7 — well, in most cases. It’s annoying not to have a possibility to get in touch with the vendor even when a household device is malfunctioning, let alone situations when the software is hanging, and a lot of money or time is at stake.
Dealing with client feedback is a powerful tool for building a brand reputation, ensuring word-of-mouth recommendations, and constant improvement. Therefore, reviewing products and services should be effortless for clients everywhere — company website, social media, independent review platforms. Moreover, feedback should be carefully analyzed and acted on.
The difference between just doing your job and exceptional client service
Here are a few tips for those who want to go an extra mile:
- Build human relationships. Get to know as much as possible about the clients’ lives, not just about business, but of course, without getting too personal.
- Invite them to company events so that they can communicate with the team in an informal setting.
- Try to help with services that you do not provide, and if there are vendors that you can recommend, it will be appreciated.
- Be proactively responsive — get in touch; give regular updates without being asked.
- Show appreciation — send a handwritten thank you message, a small gift, provide a loyalty discount.
Specifics of client service in IT outsourcing
Correct communication, transparency of all processes, predictability, and quality assurance are the cornerstones of client service in the IT-sphere.
As a project starts and many people are involved from the client and provider side, it’s better to have a clear interaction plan to prevent blind spots and communication gaps. What should it include? A list of all stakeholders, their roles and responsibilities, and area of authority and competence, who are the decision-makers, what problems they can solve, what these stakeholders should be informed about, and how often (changes to the project, team notifications, time reports, etc.). Also, this plan should be communicated to all the people involved and mutually approved as actionable. The communication channels and processes, such as meetings, should also be defined to prevent chaos.
Cultural differences might be an endless source of frustration, and thus, an obstacle to excellent client service. It means clients may have their vision of overtimes, team accessibility, reporting, punctuality, giving feedback, and many other aspects that will eventually build a wall of misunderstanding between you. The way to avoid it is to get prepared — read books and articles, perhaps even ask the client to hold a cultural awareness training for the team or organize it yourself.
It’s also crucial to use precise language, without complicated structures, idioms, and colloquialisms, especially if the client or the provider are not native speakers, both in oral and written communication.
All agreements, changes, meeting results should be recorded. It is a reliable way not to miss important details, make sure everything is understood correctly, and avoid human error.
Client service at Blackthorn Vision in Q&A
Hanna Bey, Client Partner:
Who is responsible for ensuring excellent client service at BV?
Each employee represents the company with their behavior, manner of communication, work results, and in this way, shows a high level of client service. We are not just doing a good job; we are looking for the best solutions to take the client’s business to a new level. We are not afraid to offer non-standard solutions because we have in-depth experience in this sphere, tested by years, and confirmed by our clients’ excellent feedback.
Of course, everything starts with the sales department, where each team member is working nonstop to improve the service level by interacting with clients most conveniently. We always try to find out what clients want and how they want it and try to ensure cooperation is organized according to their vision.
What tools/software do you use for interaction with clients?
We are open to communicating in all convenient ways — LinkedIn, email, Skype, and many other channels. The key idea — our approach is always individual and client-focused.
Do you have something other companies cannot offer in terms of client service?
Passion and expertise are among the core values at Blackthorn Vision, which makes us stand out. These are not just beautiful words — this is an approach to non-standard challenges, mindset, and communication style simultaneously. These are vital factors that help us beat off the competition.
Pavlo Sahaydakov, Project Manager:
What are our good result guarantees?
At the initial stages of our communication with clients, we try to get a profound understanding of their needs and detect potential pitfalls. We enter a new project with a clear roadmap and follow it. But also, we continuously ask ourselves –are we moving in the right direction? Each project has a dedicated manager available 24/7 and can quickly solve any issues if they arise.
Effective and continuous cooperation with partners is our main priority. That’s why we give full consulting support, and the client understands what we do on each stage and why, and the expected result. We have also managed to build an ambitious, self-motivated, and result-driven team.
What are the quality assurance procedures at Blackthorn Vision?
We have a complex approach to development, from the analysis of requirements, product testing, to end-user reviews scrutiny. The Discovery phase plays a vital role in this process.
Are you prepared to make changes in policies and procedures to meet client needs? (e.g., special security measures, etc.)
Our goal is to build long- term business relationships based on mutual trust. That’s why we are always open to satisfy any requests if they do not contradict our internal rules.
Mykhaylo Terentyak, CEO
Is the client always right?
I don’t think it is the question we can answer unambiguously.
What we can say confidently is that we give it one hundred and ten percent to fulfill the task or reach the goal the client came to us with.
We always try to analyze and understand our client’s end goal painstakingly, provide consulting, and rationalize our position and action plan to achieve this goal.
Not always, the client’s initial plan turns out to be right. Still, we together work out the best approach — and this is precisely our mission –to give advice, explain all possible options and indicate which of them we consider the be most suitable in this case and why.
Do you ever refuse to implement projects for clients, and why?
Yes, it sometimes happens if we see that there are no necessary conditions for a successful delivery.
We often offer a discovery phase during which we prepare a detailed proposal for our client, explain where their implementation plan has drawbacks, and describe alternatives.
It is mentioned on your website that the average cooperation time with clients is six years. How do you achieve such long-term relationships?
We give our clients exactly what they came for. It is quick and high-quality scaling of their technical teams or project delivery with minimum time spent. We have been establishing and fine-tuning both processes for 11 years of our company’s existence.
Clients that came for dedicated teams appreciate low rotation rate on the project and the high professionalism of our employees. They also like how fast we fill positions vacant for them. Those who came to implement a project value our timely and first-rate delivery and professional communication with project managers.
How do you make sure employees assimilate into the client service culture and use the best practices?
Most of our clients are from Europe, the US, and Canada. Engineers from Eastern Europe don’t need much effort to match the client’s culture seamlessly because we are already very close in terms of mindset.
What happens if the client is not happy with the outcome?
First of all, we try never to let this situation happen, and our processes are designed to prevent it, so it is an unlikely scenario. But of course, if it ever happens, we, as a client-focused company, try to find an optimum outcome for our client.
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Originally published here.