I am in the process of finding a wedding venue for my daughter and future son-in-law. This is no easy task as many of you know but one that requires persistence and patience. As my daughter and I search, one thing that has influenced us is how we are treated and listened to. The catering managers who are drawing us in are the ones taking the time to listen to our needs and concerns and not just pushing their locations. These managers are definitely leaders in their field for several reasons.
Learn about the customer’s hot buttons
To begin to help any customer, one has to understand what is driving the client. What is most important to your customer? What is a deal breaker for your client? The caterers who are true leaders are taking the time to ask these most important questions. Getting a full understanding of what your client values is critical to providing the best service. In our organizations, leaders must begin by assessing the actual needs and concerns of their clients before offering a solution. Developing a series of well thought out questions and giving your customer the time to describe their dreams and goals can accomplish this. This is what is known as a needs assessment and should be the first thing done on an initial contact meeting.
Our internal customers should be addressed in a similar way. We must keep in mind that our customers are also our co-workers and bosses. Leaders are able to locate the issues that are “hot” as well as the hidden agendas that drive our customers. Not always easy or evident, but worth the effort in pursuing.
On several interviews, my daughter was so “turned off” to a caterer that she couldn’t get beyond to person to evaluate the place. Connecting with a client involves listening and evaluating commonalities between the two. To me, the ability to relate to someone on their terms and in their language, trumps all else in a successful customer service match. People are at the core of any decision and if they find us trustworthy and caring, we are probably going to be able to interact well with them. To establish rapport, leaders may need to see how a customer processes information. Do they need to hear the information? Do they need to see the data? Do they need to interact and get examples of what is being presented to have a better understanding?
Nobody wants to work with a person who seems detached, not staying on top of a customer connection. Talented leaders create a balance of feedback and establish a realistic time frame to follow-up. The caterers who contacted us and thanked us and provided deadlines and guidance without making us feel pressured, were the caterers we pursued. Similarly, as leaders we need to structure feedback from our clients with time frames and constructive goal setting to keep everyone on track. Be available to answer questions and concerns. Show your customers that they matter and they are valued.
Although my daughter and I still have not reached a final decision, I can honestly say that I have learned a lot about the importance of providing excellent customer service. I share these insights with leaders who are willing to delight their customers and create healthy work relationships.