What mystifies me is why service companies so often present themselves as faceless organisations? It’s a sweeping statement I know, but so many present a benign facade, speak in corporate ‘tongues’ and make it pretty difficult to access what they do, and most importantly, how they can help.
Clients want to be treated as people and businesses can improve their financial performance by focusing on what buyers really want – simplicity, easy access, solutions that reflect their needs (who recognize change in needs before the buyer does) and flexibility.
That means recognizing and banishing our bad habits – for example using complex language when simple, plain English words would be easier, putting buyers into huge impersonal ‘target’ buckets, overwhelming folk with a gazillion services and solutions (most of which are someone’s pet topic rather than a valuable service) or making it hard to get something done.
Here are six suggestions on how organisations can adapt, to make themselves a better services partner, and crucially, to stand out from the faceless crowd:
- Boardroom change – daily our colleagues grapple with the realities of running a complex business: where will the growth come from, what’s happening to profit and margin? Is competition making life difficult for us? Have we got the right talent and resources? If you are not at the top table shaping the agenda, giving fresh insights into needs and promoting modernizing changes that will improve your connection with your customers, then you won’t be delivering the best results in your market. Guaranteed. So figure out how to set the agenda, not wait for one to arrive
- Simplify – most businesses are complex and bolt on additional systems and processes, which in time get in the way of client care. Make it quicker and easier for clients to do business with you. For example, figure out how to take a 20 page contract, shorten it, automate sign up and write it in plain English. If you do, clients will thank you for it. And competitors wonder how you got through legal
- Buyers are tired – of being treated like a machine, being sold the same stuff they could get from anyone. The winners will be those who personalise and tailor their offer in a way that values the buyer rather than the firm’s structure or who bring something genuinely new to the table
- De-clutter & dress your shop window – let’s take on the high street and banish the days of swamping our services receptions and websites with everything we do. The modern business knows that a clean, stylish, minimal shop window, beautifully presented, is all that we need to entice people in. And once they are in our so-called store, they will browse and naturally gravitate toward the service they really need. All we need to do is trust in the method. It works
- Recognize me – the way we organize our businesses into practices or business units doesn’t always reflect the client. Often we design purely from an internal perspective, giving us a means of managing operations but not serving clients. A much more human-based approach is putting the customer first (everyone talks about it but few actually do it). For example some of the new upstart challenger banks are getting this right. They design the front end with the customer in mind (weekend opening hours, ease of access, extra little services (changing coins into notes without grumbling!) then work out how to deliver. What is the result? They are the banks signing up new customers, not the big players who are splashing the cash on TV advertising, telling us that they put customers first (whilst closing before most people get out of the office)
- Brand – be yourself – and finally a word on brand. Believe that being yourself (knowing why your business exists and what people love about you is absolutely essential) and being humble and human are powerful business tools that are woefully under-used. Make sure you know what is special, write it down and use it in all that you do – what you say, how you market, your offices, your meetings, your proposals, how you attract staff.
Being human matters more than ever because people recognize that the way industry serves its customers is now too homogenized, so much so that having a standard offer will not be enough to survive and prosper. The tide has turned. The question is “Have you?”.