Successful service conversations are driven by your ability to consistently resolve or fulfill the customer’s needs and deliver a great experience along the way. Having the ability to conduct conversations consistently with first-time customers, lifelong customers, and those easy or challenging to deal with, reinforces their buying decision, whether it is their 1st or 200th purchase. Furthermore, your ability to exceed the client’s expectations is key to receiving referrals. Delivering exceptional service at every step along the way will help retain customers and attract new ones. The following steps will empower you to be more effective and have more successful outcomes with those you do business with.
Step 1: Rapport
Rapport establishes a connection and builds trust, essential elements when moving into discovery, the next step of customer service conversations. Rapport is about being responsive and energetic in your exchange with the customer. Rapport can be an accident, and it can also be deliberate. An important note is to never assume Rapport in any relationship or interaction. First, you need to make a genuine connection before moving forward. In this step, we establish the flow of the conversation, set expectations regarding what the conversation will be about, and establish the purpose or outcome of the conversation. Once that is complete, and the first business question is asked, we can move into the Discovery phase.
What energy do you bring to this stage of your conversation? How could you be more effective at establishing energy, alignment, and expectations beforehand to pave the roadmap for the conversation?
Step 2: Discovery
This step is where we learn more about the other person’s needs, wants, and goals. In customer service, it is often what do they need, what their challenge is, or what needs to happen to resolve an issue. By truly understanding where they are at in their business, we will understand how we can best serve them with recommendations, solutions, suggestions, or options uniquely suited for them or their situation. Our job is to lead them from their starting point A to an optimal point Z. This is accomplished by understanding their starting point and identifying what tools and resources would fulfill their need or resolve their challenge.
When listening to a customer, what are their most important questions, outcomes, needs, or results we must fulfill?
Step 3: Client Fulfillment
In the Client Fulfillment step, you deliver on what you sold, follow through on your word, and provide assurance through the quality of your work and the overall experience. In this step, we often use two key communication tools; education and presenting.
Education is sharing what they need to know or what they don’t know they don’t know and need to know to fulfill their need successfully. Here it is no longer just about the education but walking them through the steps of implementation/onboarding, resolution, or troubleshooting them through a challenge while providing the service. We need to remember people like to learn, not necessarily be “educated,” so the way we share our expertise is key to staying and doing everything under the umbrella of Rapport!
Just as important is how you package your educational features and present your information, creating the story and emotional connection people have to their experience of you and your business. This will help either retain the client, create an ecstatic client, or contribute to a poor experience. In some cases, it may create interest in looking at other options or making a switch. It is also important to remember when people have a bad experience, they tell everyone. People will share bad experiences without prompting. Even when we deliver excellent service, getting people to share google reviews or share our name with others is something we must ask for and put effort into. It is essential to do all you can to make our client interaction a great experience.
Step 4: Next Steps
Next Steps is about clarifying what will happen next to fulfill the need, keep the process moving, or solidify the remaining steps to a resolution. For example, suppose a security company installs a system for someone. In that case, they must show the customer how to navigate the system, provide online support and supply a customer service number for continuing support. Your primary job as a leader is to provide leadership and to keep the process moving to completion. How you do that is very important; there are different communication styles and ways to succeed within those styles.
A great tool you can use to learn more about the different communication styles is the DISC Communication Model. To learn more about it, click here. This model shows you how we can meet people where they are at and communicate in a way they will appreciate.
Step 5: Button Down
Go back and clarify and verify the next steps, finalize the details, and reiterate for reinforcement. Remember, deals and agreements are not real until they are written down, scheduled, or complete! Buttoning the conversation down is making sure everyone knows what’s happening next and who’s responsible for what, and that the next steps or results got accomplished.
If the result was to:
- Get a meeting scheduled and after two weeks, you come back and say, “I tried reaching him with two voicemails and emails but have not gotten that scheduled yet,” it would not be considered Buttoned Down.
- Outlining next steps and clearly defining what needs to be done next, by who and by when makes sure those details are clear and properly organized with written follow-up or documentation to support the process. For example, you own a cleaning company, and while setting up a client, payment terms and specific expectations for the job were not laid out, both parties would be unsure of expectations. This situation would not reassure either party and could leave both disappointed. This would mean these final details are not buttoned-down.
The “Button Down” means clarifying the “Next Steps” to reinforce clarity in our communication. It is about bringing a conversation to completion. Being successful in sales, service, and leadership requires us to be successful despite the challenges, stalling, objections, and obstacles that present themselves. Buttoning it down means getting it down, not just saying well, “I tried and….”
Knowing what to do is not always enough. We must figure out how to adjust our communication to get the results needed and outline, or complete, the next steps. There are times where it takes multiple steps to bring something to completion. Our job is to bring it as far as possible in each interaction and button down the next steps to keep the processing moving.
Lack of Button Down can lead to unmet customer expectations when what needs to be done falls outside their set of expectations. Which further highlights the importance of walking through these steps when the solution may not meet their timeline or be what they want to hear. This is where our conflict resolution skills and our ability to defuse negative emotions can turn a poor interaction into a great one. It also helps ensure the last impression is the lasting impression we desire.
How can you improve your conversations? How can you guide your clients during this process? Where do you excel? And how can you build and improve on that? Applying these steps to your conversation will help you retain more clients, make more money, and be successful and fulfilled with your business relationships.
The Process Drives Results
Having successful outcomes from your conversations and interactions with your customers depends on your overall sales, delivery, and customer service processes. Starting from marketing to lead generation, lead conversion, successful onboarding, service, delivery, and fulfillment. Having the ability to conduct those conversations with continuity and consistency is key to producing results. No business can stay successful and profitable with clients coming in one door and going out another. It’s our job to make sure we are fulfilling their needs and delivering a great experience along the way. Our conversations will create the potential for client fulfillment and setting and exceeding customer expectations or creating dissatisfied customers. Even Satisfied customers can leave just at the appearance of something being different or a slightly better price. Ecstatic customers stay and refer others and are less price-sensitive! The book Raving Fans is a great resource to continue your learning on this topic. The steps outlined here will empower you to be a more effective communicator while meeting the needs of those you serve and create a more profitable business in doing so.