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Why Customer Service is the Foundation of Your Home Business

Customer Service is the Foundation for Where 80 Percent of Your Business Should Come: Existing Customers

By Bob Livingston, Author of How you do…What you do

How you do what you do is about achieving Service Excellence, a critical need in our service based economy. It is not about complaining about service, the Internet is filled with that; rather, it is about providing a solution to poor service — a Roadmap. Service Excellence at its core is about having a great attitude, solid beliefs, and exceptional behaviors and applying those to your service relationships. It is all about finding ways to make the other person you are serving feel good about your product or service, your company, and themselves because they feel good about dealing with you. Everyone grows when your relationships grow.

For home-based entrepreneurs, customer service is particularly important. Because of the smaller relative size of home-based businesses, the business owner gets much closer to the customer. This can be a significant competitive advantage, providing Service Excellence. The entrepreneur can be hands-on in implementing it. Nothing should be more important to a business than customer service, as 80 percent of your business should come from your existing customer base.

The approach to Service Excellence I present is an approach that I have seen succeed first hand. This roadmap, coupled with what each individual brings to relationships in the way of their beliefs, attitudes, behaviors, and good traits, is what will lead you to a higher level of Service Excellence and propel you towards loyal relationships with customers that can last a lifetime.

What follows is a synopsis of the approach that lies at the very center of How you do …What you do, a transformation roadmap. How does one describe Service Excellence? Service Excellence is less about what you do (your job) for the people you serve and more about how you do what you do (your behaviors and attitudes). It is about making a deliberate change in your approach to serving those you serve. Your customers and clients will evaluate you by how you do something, not by what you say about how you do something.

Make Long-Term Loyalty the Priority.
Your success as a service-centric company or individual will be determined not only by how you treat those outside of the company but also by how you serve your colleagues inside the company. In most industries, the companies that are first to embrace change in the way they approach serving clients are those that can gain competitive advantage. That service-centered strategy is what will produce differentiation and thus will ultimately lead to competitive advantage. Differentiation and competitive advantage create long-term loyalty.

Articulate Your Purpose.
Purpose is what identifies you. It is the reason why you do what you do. In order to be successful at serving those you do, it is first necessary to determine what it is you wish your relationships to end up being. Purpose then becomes the end result of what you do and how you want to do it. It is your expressed desire about how you want to be remembered. The envisioned end, if you will.

Create Your Values.
Values are the guidelines that govern your behavior. It is what you stand for and what you believe in. When the values you create are right, your behaviors will naturally follow and they will be right. Living your values is about doing what is right, morally and ethically.

Here is what makes for a great relationship with clients, customers, and colleagues.
•    Care genuinely about the people you serve.
•    Understand their needs completely.
•    Differentiate between hard needs and soft needs.
•    Understand what is required to satisfy them.
•    Place the priority on satisfying the soft needs.
•    Be open in communications with the other person and communicate candidly and often.
•    In all cases, put the other party first.

Determine The “Soft” Needs.
Everyone you serve has two different sets of needs: hard needs and soft needs. Hard needs are satisfied by the work (what) you do on someone’s behalf. EVERY ONE OF YOUR COMPETITORS DOES THAT.

Soft needs are satisfied BY HOW YOU DO THAT WORK (your behavior). Everyone has soft needs uncovering what they really are challenging. To get an idea of what some soft needs might be, first look inside of yourself and determine what really makes you happy. The same soft needs I believe reside within each of us, so discovering the needs of those we serve is not that difficult. Determining soft needs will provide the understanding of the steps required to differentiate you from others. Awareness, probing two-way in-person discussions, and great listening are at the center of this understanding and determination of soft needs.

Satisfy Those Soft Needs.
Do the common thing in an uncommon way; look at the routine and make it special; use your imagination, exercise creativity; make the ordinary seem extraordinary; be open to spontaneity in your service actions; take risks. Seek opportunities to create memories. There are no expiration dates on memories.

Always stay connected to those whom you serve by making all of your service actions special. The challenge is to seek out those opportunities that allow you to differentiate yourself from the competition and to reinforce to the people you are serving just how important they are.
Always give those you serve more than you promise. Give.

Get Feedback to Continually Improve.
A rather uncomplicated yet very direct approach is asking the person you are serving two very straight forward questions about how they feel you are doing in serving them. Simply ask:

1) Tell me three things you like about how I serve you?
2) Tell me three things I could improve?

Feedback is at the center of Service Excellence and continuous improvement. Seek and you will understand. Listen and you will improve, if you act on the feedback and make the necessary adjustments.

Form Written Service Action Plans.
Your Service Action Plans define your personal roadmap to service excellence. They lay out your route and indicate which path to follow to serve well. The plans must be flexible and always fluid enough to change as needs are uncovered. The service plans and the subsequent service actions must continually evolve. Who are the communities and or individuals you truly serve? Are they significant enough to your role to require a plan? Have you listed specific service action steps that are time-bound with schedules and deadlines? Are you adding a creative service action to your plans?

How You Do What You Do Will Determine Who You Will Become.
At the end of the day, everyone needs to answer the question: “Do you want to be remembered for what you do, or remembered for how you went about doing it?” Both choices require different actions. I believe strongly that how you do what you do will determine who you will become and how you will be remembered.

This phrase summarizes the substance of what a cultural service transformation is all about. HBM

Bob Livingston, formerly head of sales at Unilever’s The Lipton Company, is the founder and CEO of REL Communications, a consulting firm that moderates the Client Service Advisory boards. He also leads service-based cultural transformations within the companies with which he consults. His book, How you do…What you do is available from McGraw Hill. www.mhprofessional.com/product.php?isbn=0071592784&

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