10 Key Principles For Five-Star Customer Service In Website Development Agencies
An old business mantra says that “the customer is the king.” I don’t think the customer is the king.
My belief is that a balanced and fair working relationship where no one is the king, and both parties work together, is the best environment for delivering and receiving five-star customer service. I’ve learned and refined these principles throughout more than 1,500 projects during the last six years, and I think these tips will serve not only web developers in the long run, but people in any tech-related industry vertical.
1. Success is largely a matter of expectations, so do set and manage their expectations.
Great customer service is not what you actually do for your customers. Rather, it is what they perceive you do for them — and how they perceive your service is directly dependent on their prior expectations.
Follow this formula: Great Customer Service = Reality – Expectations
You can be as good as it gets, but if their expectation was to get more than what you were able to deliver (i.e., the reality is under their expectations), your customer service will not be perceived as great.
2. Be predictable.
Few people like surprises, and nobody likes unpleasant surprises. Follow these two steps:
- Listen to understand what they are expecting to get.
- Communicate what will you deliver — as well as when and how you will deliver — so you are predictable.
This brings us to the next one.
3. Listen very, very well.
In order to properly manage their expectations, and in order to be predictable, you have to understand first what your customers want, how they want it and when they want it. When listening to your client, do your best to focus your attention on them, not on your thoughts and not on what are you going to say next. Just be there and really hear what are they saying, even if you disagree with what you are hearing. Really good listeners are able to hold multiple conflicting ideas in their minds at the same time.
4. Reflect back what you’ve heard.
Before moving forward on your customer’s request, make sure you properly grasp what they need and that you are able to see the reality as they see it.
For this, we recommend reflecting back what you’ve heard. When doing this, make sure you stick to objective facts. Try starting off with something along these lines: “It seems like you need… and you expect…”
5. Connect with their higher purpose.
Ask deep questions to understand why they want something and why they want it the way they want it. Repeatedly ask why, three to four times, to get to the root cause and uncover deeper needs. Maybe they want to serve a disadvantaged population or they want to change the world, or maybe they just want to go home earlier to their children and spend more time with them.
Then, guide and help them make the right choices about their website that will help them achieve their higher purpose.
6. Write it down in the scope of work.
Writing down what you’ve heard and what you are planning to deliver, then confirming it with your customer, will ensure everyone is on the same page. The customer will know what they should get, the designers and developers will know what they should build, and the tester will know the definition of done — so they can check the website and see if it is built.
7. Keep them in the loop.
Remember, their perception is their reality. Nowadays, with all the remote work, it’s very easy to get disconnected. And if customers feel disconnected — if they don’t see anything progressing — they can easily panic.
In order to keep them in control and at ease, we recommend deploying small features on a weekly basis to a public server that they can check and see progress. Besides that, we recommend sending a heartbeat message every other day in order to keep the customer informed and at ease.
8. Hire the right people in tune with your values.
To ensure your principles for successful customer service are actually applied, make sure you have those people who value the same things as you do as an agency owner. Besides working procedures, I recommend hiring people who have the same values and life principles as you do, because this will allow them to fulfill your “commander’s intent,” even when things fall outside of working procedures.
9. Interview your happiest customers.
Ask two key questions of your happiest customers, then listen and take notes. You will learn a lot about how they see you, what they value about you and how they made their decision about hiring you. And this will allow you to further improve your customer service. Try asking questions like the following:
- Take me back to the day when you first decided to build (or rebuild) this website. What has changed or occurred to make it a priority?
- What would you have done if our services didn’t exist?
10. Treat your customers as you’d like to be treated.
Every agency should leave and breathe by this principle.
Every time, and there will be a lot of times, when the customer asks for something that you have a hard time delivering or don’t know how to, revert to this simple principle.
To treat the customers as you’d like to be treated means to make an effort and imagine you are the client of your company, asking for what your customer has just asked for.
Customer service is one of the most effective ways to bring in repeat business. By focusing on their reality, by properly listening, by being predictable and by building meaningful relationships, you will become their long-term trustworthy partner.
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