are we neglecting our relationships?
By tim brown in Culture, Engagement, and Leadership
During my 34 years in public relations and client consulting, I have learned a hunkin’ helpin’ piece of advice – relationships are everything. When a relationship is good, it’s great; when it’s bad, it’s sour for all parties. So, what goes into building a healthy relationship?
Customer service 101
No matter the industry, job department or skillset, customer service is a vital skill often overlooked in education and training. Just peek at review sites like Yelp, Glass Door and Google Reviews. People want to be serviced properly and they’re not afraid to speak up.
Can one really learn exceptional, let alone adequate, customer service skills? The answer is yes, and they should. Did you know there are even online courses and certificates for customer service? In a recent post by Survey Monkey, the survey platform highlights a few examples of how you can help your employees improve their customer service skills.
- Empathy, patience and consistency. In customer-facing situations, a customer’s reaction/attitude can range from general happiness to anger. Have empathy; understand where he/she is coming from. No matter the situational reaction, you must remain consistent in how you handle each interaction.
- Adaptability. Every customer is different, and some may even seem to change week-to-week. You should be able to handle surprises, sense the customer’s mood and adapt accordingly. This also includes a willingness to learn––providing good customer service is a continuous learning process.
- Clear communication. Ensure you convey to customers exactly what you mean. You don’t want your customer to think he’s getting 50% off when he’s actually getting 50% more product. Use authentically positive language, stay cheerful no matter what and never end a conversation without confirming the customer is satisfied.
- Work ethic. Customers appreciate a rep who will see their problem through to its resolution. At the same time, you must have good time management skills and not spend too much time handling one customer while others are waiting. Stay focused on your goals to achieve the right balance.
- Knowledge. Ultimately your customers rely on you for their knowledge of your product. Stay informed enough to respond to most inquiries and know where to turn if the questions become too detailed or technical for you to answer. But don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know” either. Customers will appreciate the honesty and your efforts to find the right answer.
- Thick skin. The customer’s always right… right? The ability to swallow one’s pride and accept blame or negative feedback is crucial. Whether your team works directly with customers or looking for feedback on social media, they’ve got to keep the customer’s happiness in mind.
Are we selfish?
In today’s fast-paced world, we often defer to the question, “What can you do for me?” Therefore, relationships remain fleeting unless nurtured. In a recent Psychological Science study, research suggests that our society is becoming more Individualistic as time passes by. Does that mean we’re becoming more…selfish?
Henry R. Kravis Professor of Leadership and Organizational Psychology, Ronald E. Riggio, Ph.D. summarized this study as such: “One outcome of a society shifting toward individualism is a lack of empathy––caring about ourselves and our own welfare but not caring much about others.” Maybe we are becoming more selfish. Maybe we are shying away from relationships, and, consequently, sabotaging the ones we have.
As summarized by this study, such results can explain the fleeting relationship I mentioned earlier. We’re so busy getting ahead, developing our own brands on social media and catering to our families, we often overlook the personal and professional relationships we forgot to water or put out in the sun.
Nurturing the relationship
Famous new business consultant Robb High once noted “Doing great work isn’t enough. Neither is generating great results. A client…relationship is just that, a relationship, and considerable effort needs to be committed to keep the relationship enduring.” So, what does this effort look like?
- Get to know your clients, even if it means getting a little personal. By learning about your client’s hobbies, family and out-of-work interests, you may be presented with subsequent opportunities to connect.
- Go above and beyond. The work you do for your customers directly affects the relationship. By doing exceptional work, you will build the trust of your clients; by continually failing, your relationship will crumble…an obvious notion that is often overlooked.
- Communication is key. By being responsive, practicing transparency, constructively challenging your clients (to their benefit), and checking in regularly (preferably in-person, over the phone or via email), an open dialogue can go a long way. Again, we’re trying to build trust here.
- Create a partnership. Your clients, as well as your employees, are on your team. By shifting your perspective of the relationship to a partnership, you’ll be more likely to treat the organism as such. Collaborate with your partners, ask for feedback, and use each other’s expertise to create dashing achievements and repour.
Relationships are everything (remember when I said that earlier?). Whether the relationship is with a client who keeps you in business or your own brand ambassador, taking the time to build, maintain and nurture your relationships will go a long way. What does developing good relationships look like to you?