Technology may have made many transactions faceless – but that doesn't mean that modern business no longer requires good customer service. While a business owner can do just about anything online, from ordering supplies to working with a bookkeeper, he also has the power to choose from hundreds, if not thousands, of service providers.
With businesses increasingly more willing to use remote services, such as working with a bookkeeper online instead of in-person, the professional services industry is becoming more competitive. As a result, there are now numerous companies offering the same service, which means that even the best of them can get lost in the fray.
It doesn't matter what industry you are in, whether it is B2C (Business to Consumer) or B2B (Business to Business), the customer service you provide is one of your most competitive differentiators.
With so many competitors vying for the customer's business, the effort a company makes to deliver better service can really make it stand out.
What Makes a Professional Services Company Successful?
The answer, in a word, is service – and that attribute alone is more important than what a company actually delivers because it keeps people coming back, even in B2B.
TeamSupport writes that some "30-40% of B2B customers will refer your company if their customer experience was an exceptional one. Good word-of-mouth can solidify the decision for B2B companies; these referrals can be worth their weight in gold when it comes to locating new customers."
Good customer service helps companies retain its customers. According to HelpScout, "It costs 6-7 times more to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one. Great customer service can save your company thousands, if not millions each year."
Not Just Agreeing
However, not just any customer service will do. Many B2B companies deal in professional services or have a services component to the products they sell. As such, customer service for professional services company is about more than agreeing with clients. For example, a consulting services company wouldn't get very far if it told its clients they were doing everything right. Instead, that company needs to look at how it can deliver the most sincere value to its clients – even if that means getting less today to get more tomorrow.
It's imperative to realize the utter importance of rock-solid customer service. It's not just about the customer always being right... And that doesn't happen by talking down to them or looking for any possible way to extract more money from them.
It happens by truly going out of your way for them and adding enormous amounts of value to the equation.
The Nature of Service
Customer service matters so much in professional services because of the nature of the industry. Good customer service helps to ensure that the customer's needs and wants are fully understood so that the company can deliver the right professional services.
In a service environment, employees aren't the only people affecting the cost and quality of service delivered. The customers themselves can be involved in operational processes, sometimes to a very large extent, and their input influences their experiences (and often other customers' too).
For example, an architectural firm's client may explain the purpose of a new facility well or poorly, and that will affect the efficiency of the design process and the quality of the end product.
According to an American Express survey, "More than two-thirds of American consumers say they're willing to spend 14 percent more on average with a company that they believe delivers excellent service…" In addition to spending more, nearly half of the survey's respondents say they always tell others about good service interactions.
Finance startup Kabbage is a good example. The company specializes providing in small business loans very quickly. Using proprietary technology, Kabbage provides a small business loan decision in minutes, whereas it can take weeks to get a decision from a traditional bank. The speed of its transactions has allowed Kabbage to differentiate itself and grow.
Beyond providing a good customer experience, many people today are looking for a more holistic relationship with the companies they contract – one in which their needs are anticipated and addressed before they become issues. Providing this level of customer service starts with empathy.
Empathy provides the context for a customer's experience, which is where the brand can really connect. Many companies are working to gather the right data to personalize customers' experiences, but few can take into account customers' context at each moment.
Businesses talk about 'acquiring' or 'converting' customers, but when did you last hear a friend say how pleased they were to be acquired or converted by a brand?
- What makes a company unique is not the actual services they provide but the manner in which they provide those services.
- In the services industry, customers play an important role in the quality of the service they receive. Providing incomplete or inaccurate information destroys the process – be it counting or consulting.
- Services companies need to approach their clients with empathy and understanding in order to be successful.