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As an entrepreneur or client service representative, how you appeal, manage, and relate to your clientele is critical to your success.

Just recently I had the experience of dealing with two different banks and the level service I received was night and day!!

There are many courses available on client service, but we can never hear too often the importance of delivering on your promise of excellent service. As entrepreneurs it’s vital we make people feel welcome and respected.

I recently had to deal with two different banks within an hour of each other. Bank A and Bank B both have very similar branding and advertising. They’re on the customer’s side; they’re friendly and willing to help; they care about small businesses, seniors, and young people just starting out. Their advertising is warm and welcoming, not cold or corporate.

One bank lived up to these promises; one definitely did not.

Bank A: Scolding and Cold

If you’re actually visiting a bank, it’s because you’ve already tried to do what you need to do online; you finally tried live chat support; then you called the customer service centre. Most of us avoid banks like the plague, and going in person is a last resort for when we’re confused or frustrated by a banking issue.

As I stood in line at Bank A, my stomach sank. Just watching other customers deal with their issues let me know how my complicated banking requests were going to be received. A young woman was being scolded for not having activated her bank card yet; someone else was being admonished for wanting to withdraw large amounts of cash to pay tradespeople rather than accepting a money order. When I finally approached the counter, the teller was immediately irritated at the complexity of my question. She went to get someone else, who arrived without having been briefed, so I had to start all over again. Even though their entire job was to assist clients, I felt like I was bothering them with my requests.

Think about your business. Do you tell people they’re asking for your services wrong? If they don’t follow a set procedure, do you let them know you’re not interested in working with them? Set processes are important to a streamlined business, but we can become too attached to our own processes at the expense of our clients’ comfort.

Bank B: Humane and Warm

Oh, what a difference a good bank makes!

I entered Bank B exhausted and upset from my dealings with Bank A. But from the moment I walked in, I knew this bank lived up to its marketing. The line to the tellers was short; the tellers and the clients were smiling and chatting. The person in front of me was treated with kid gloves; while I was waiting the woman beside me was treated very well too. When my teller returned after she went to get help from a supervisor with my complicated request, she chatted with me about soccer rather than staring at her computer and ignoring me as the teller at Bank A had done.

The details of my banking don’t matter, but it’s important to note that I was asking for some perks to be grandfathered in even though it was going to be applied to what was technically a new account. The benefits I was asking for are no longer offered and shouldn’t have been applied to this “new” product, yet the supervisor smiled and said she understood why I was asking and said that it was okay with her for my request to go through. They did everything they could to accommodate me, including making exceptions to their own rules, making me feel valued as a customer and respected as a person.

Clients need to feel empowered, not belittled; in control, not dominated by a company’s Byzantine rules.

Be Bank B!

Those two experiences, separated only by an hour and a few minutes of driving, were such a clear reminder of the importance of respecting and honouring my clients. When clients want to change something in their contract or spend a longer time on a piece of work, understand that they have their reasons and shouldn’t be shamed for wanting to adjust something. Bank A would say, “No, we have our contract and you can’t change it now.” Bank B would say “Let’s see how we can help.” I let clients know that there will be extra cost for extra work, but I also look for other areas I can trim to make their budget work for them.  There’s no need to be condescending about it!

How you treat people matters just as much as, if not more than, what you do for them. As a solopreneur or small business, how are you treating people? How are you making them feel? Do you insist on following your own processes and procedures to the letter, or do you bend your rules to accommodate your clients’ special circumstances and desires?