Opinion: How to deliver exceptional service

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Nikki Heald, managing director of Corptraining, explains why exceptional customer service is so important for planners, and how they can achieve it with a few simple steps:

Often, we’re so intent on making the sale that we have a transactional view of our clients, rather than taking time to build relationships or demonstrate service excellence. We use them (to increase our profits), abuse them (by giving them inferior service) and then treat them like a one-night stand - attentive today, neglectful tomorrow!

Sound silly? Well, complaints such as “you never call”, “you’re always too busy”, and “why were you late?” are legitimate gripes made by disgruntled clients. In today’s competitive market, client service expectations have increased. Clients are savvy, realise they have a multitude of choice and expect to be treated exceptionally by their brokers.

So what is exceptional service? Exceptional client service is about going beyond what is realistically expected of you. It’s about surprising, and often delighting clients, turning them into enthusiastic referral sources that will stick with you not only because you do great work but also because of the value you bring. Imagine if you could get existing clients to tell others about how wonderful you are? It would certainly save on all of those marketing and networking costs.

Great service is not about just doing your job but establishing connections on an emotional level. It’s about value-adding and finding ways to be unique. Interestingly, research suggests that emotion influences purchasing decisions six more times than rationale. Think about it ­- when something makes us feel good, we are more inclined to buy.

Unfortunately, many businesses believe that delivering stand-out service will cost them too much in staff time, training and developing service standards and procedures. These in-focused organisations are only concerned with company profit, cutting costs and little thought is given to how to make clients happy. Additionally, staff recognition and retention is low which can also significantly impact growth and profit.   

When you think about it realistically, bad service is actually more costly to your brokerage than great service. Bad service influences more than just a negative customer experience – it reduces revenue and drives up costs. It damages public perception, credibility and market reputation. As we all know, a dissatisfied client is more likely to spread the word about a poor service experience than a positive one. 

Providing exceptional service is not overly difficult and it’s important to recognise that little things count with clients. So what are some simple things you can do to ensure your service is exceptional?

Respond As Soon As You Can

Speed is everything, so try to reply to your clients as soon as you can and keep them in the loop as to your progress. Procrastination doesn’t help anyone and you’re going to have to respond sooner or later. May as well do it now!

Listen to Your Clients

Avoid speaking and really listen to what they’re saying. It’s important you understand what your clients are communicating to you. That way, you will be able to meet their need successfully and provide the correct product or cover.

Keep Promises

One of the biggest gripes in business today is that people simply don’t do what they say they’re going to do. If you say you’re going to do something, then make sure you do it. It enhances your professionalism and personal brand, and demonstrates you value your client.

Know Your Stuff

The perception of your client is that you are the paid expert. That’s why they’ve come to you. So, it’s imperative you keep yourself up-to-date and top of game within your profession. Be ready to answer client questions and unfortunately, if you convey a lack of knowledge, then you risk ruining your credibility.

Give A Little

If a client asks you to do something that really won’t cost you a lot in time or money, then treat it an opportunity to go the extra mile. By doing so, you not only have a contented and indebted client, but someone who is more than happy to refer to you.

Use Your Knowledge

Once you’ve built an emotional connection with your client, you would have figured out how they prefer to communicate. Some clients are not detail driven and won’t require excessive information. On the other hand, some would prefer to know every step of the process. Learn to gauge your client’s preferences and use this knowledge appropriately in the service experience.

Finally, within the insurance and financial services profession, brokers really should view their book of clients as their most valuable asset and take good care of them. More than that, they should take the time to develop long-lasting relationships by keeping in touch regularly both in good times and bad. It’s not sufficient to wait until renewal times to contact them, but rather, an on-going communiqué.

Remember, you’re not just selling a product but providing expert advice that can significantly impact on people’s livelihood. So, if you haven’t given much thought to your service levels, then perhaps it’s time to conduct a self-audit. Remember, if you don’t make the client feel valued, respected and important - your competitors will!

Did you know?

  • 93% of customers indicated that quality customer service was vital to maintaining brand loyalty
  • It’s 6 - 7 times more expensive to gain a new client than it is to retain an existing one
  • It’s not safe to work on the premise of “no news is good news”.  Chances are, if your client is not happy, they’ll walk and won’t even forewarn you of their departure.

What systems do you have in place to determine whether your clients are happy?  Try to gather feedback - but remember, feedback is only useful when acted upon.

Delivering exceptional service:

  • Lower cost to manage and service client base - higher profits.
  • Increased customer loyalty - raises revenue, lowers marketing fees.
  • Increased staff loyalty - better service culture.

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