When you started your bookkeeping firm, chances are your concept of happy customers means that you could give them great service.
Service is a huge component of keeping clients returning to your door and bringing referrals with them, but today more small businesses are thinking also in terms of “customer experience.”
What is the difference?
Customer service is if a client contacts you to do their books on a regularly scheduled basis, you accept the job offering a reasonable fee, and you do the job well, accurately and reliably. That is all any customer can really ask of you, and if you stick to that formula, you can expect to escape customer complaints.
But customer experience takes the service you offer to a whole new and delightful level. Your client asks you to keep the books of their small business, for example. And you do it as described above.
Additionally, four times a year you send a really relevant White Paper or Newsletter to your client full of valuable information that could add value to their lives, save them money at tax time, or gives them inspirational business ideas.
Once a year (at Thanksgiving rather than Christmas since you want to stand out) you send them a couple of tickets (or tickets for their family if you know the size) to attend a local sports event. You support the community, but you delight them with something unexpected.
(The next year, it could be a family themed production at the local arts centre or a coupon for a local winery tour and a bottle of wine.)
You let the customer know that you appreciate them in this way, and you enhance your experience.
If you are also doing their tax preparation, you offer your year-long customers a small discount over walk-in customers. One innovative bookkeeper we know this year even offered clients dropping off their tax papers one of those little “fidget spinners” (she got a great deal at the Dollar Store ☺) and couldn’t believe how it made everyone smile and be happier during a normally tense season.
Sometimes, it can be as simple as sending a personalized handwritten card thanking them for their ongoing support and patronage.
The idea of giving a delightful customer experience is thinking outside of the normal delivery of services. There is no law saying bookkeepers have to be bland. Because we all know that we are some of the most interesting and exciting people on the planet – right? ☺
Why would you go this extra mile?
Because when you provide great customer service, your clients will refer you to others if they are asked for a recommendation.
But when you give a great customer experience, people will spontaneously talk about it in conversation with their friends. They will share it on Facebook. You become part of an extended conversation that would never otherwise happen. And that helps to grow your brand and builds business.
Customer service is more than the completion of a satisfactory transaction between you and your customer. For greatest impact, it needs to grow to a great customer experience that keeps your relationship active and growing.
How can you create more of a customer experience?
Those who do it well don’t do it by accident. They have taken the time to prepare a thoughtful, written and executed customer experience strategy that keeps them open to spontaneity, but doesn’t just leave things to chance.
A recent study reported in Harvard Business Review indicated companies who engage in building a formal customer experience strategy and who implement it consistently achieve significantly higher customer satisfaction rates than those who do not.
If that doesn’t convince you, consider that research done by American Express shows that 60 percent of customers are willing to pay more for a service or product when it delivers a great customer experience.
A couple of years ago, Watermark Consulting actually did a Return on Investment Study on Customer Experience strategies. They studied the cumulative total stock returns for the Top 10 Leaders in Customer Experience, and the Bottom Ten. They gleaned this information from publicly traded customers listed in Forrester Research’s annual Customer Experience Index ratings.
Their findings were dramatic.
Companies who had the highest customer experience delivery outperformed those that did not by 35 points in the S&P 500 Index. The study encompassed a 10 year period and showed that the customer experience-focused firms had better retention of their customers, less price sensitivity (they could charge more), greater wallet share, and positive word of mouth.
Coincidentally, they also had fewer costs associated with complaints and happier customers.
Companies who fell behind in the customer experience area paid a price for it. They posted a return that was 45 points lower than that of the broader market.
The issue of giving great customer experiences is also complicated by the fact that most companies believe they are giving better service than they actually are.
How can you build a great customer experience into the delivery of your bookkeeping services?
Here are four ways to get started:
- Handle the basics, and then augment them with delightful surprises. Children aren’t the only ones who love to get surprises. It’s a joy that doesn’t leave us with age or adulthood. Think about at least three things you could do within the course of the year that would surprise and delight your customers, but still be affordable and achievable for you.
- Understand there is a link between happy customers and a happy you. People who really like you and the things you do for them are much more apt to absorb a price increase without complaining, to give your referrals, and to arrive at your office with a pleasant attitude. Who doesn’t want to work with happier clients?
- Try to create an emotional touchpoint with each delightful surprise you arrange for your clients. If you run a small business, you get to know your clients very well and what they are interested in outside of their workplace. You may want to customize your surprises to tap into the joy you see when they speak of a particular hobby they have. Know that if you can touch them personally, you will be treasured in their life. Remember the quote from Maya Angelou, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
- Don’t be afraid to use science on your side. There is a relationship between the reality of what you do and the customer’s perception of your customer service. Find ways to explain the extra services you do in terms that draw subtle attention to them and heighten your customer’s impression that they are getting special treatment. Everyone wants to feel they are the only one who really matters, and the most successful businesses make that happen for each and every customer.
What can you begin doing right now to delight your customers? Please share your ideas below in the comments.
Until next time, take good care of yourself and thank you for spending time.
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