Client servicing is not a department, it is a feel: Ankoor Dasguupta
Being involved with almost all departments of a corporate set-up, start-ups and having worked in individual capacity, in big teams, small teams, collaborating, firefighting, brainstorming, I realised that there are two essential things that evolved in this process. One is ‘adaptability’ to various environments and mindsets; second is ‘communication’ with both internal and external stakeholders. Deep down, we all know and recognise that the concept is one of the most key elements for any business and the best part, the conscious effort to indulge helps make one evolve as a better human being as well.
In daily lives, talks, panel discussions, we usually refrain from talking about this simple subject – Client Support | Customer Support | Customer Service – whatever term we relate to. Why do we talk about it less? Well, I believe – one, we probably don’t want to talk about it because it does not actually have an algorithm. And yes, the thought that how do we measure it? What KPI’s do we put? How do we improve it? And second, because it may be something that is taken for granted.
What is it?
My experience says – Customer service is understanding and memorising of all your business relationships to the extent that you can anticipate the stimulus versus response gap, the thin line between a follow-up and irritating follow-up along with the ability to withhold sending good morning messages every morning but not missing to drop in a ‘hello, hope you are doing well’ on important dates and casually in between without any business objective till the moment that will come when a conversation has better chances of converting. I do not believe in good or bad memory. If we really want to remember something, we do find a methodology. It’s the effort that fails to keep the thread intact at all times, in all times zones. Well, that’s why laptops and mobiles were invented in the first place – to keep connected where we want and where we should.
And since it’s Kali-Yug, so in the process if it entails you to sell something, thumb rule – don’t sell – just be assertive and bring in the reason: (a) Why is the timing right to invest?, (b) What problem we will aim to solve?, (c) Here is the reason why they should, (d) ‘Main Hoon Na’.
I have come across client servicing representatives who at times closed a deal just on the basis of the trust, right questions and convincing without sounding that you are trying to convince.
How can we get better at it?
Again, don’t try to define the next level. Feel the next level. It is a ‘high’ getting to know the pulse of your clients. How to speak with each one of them, how to engage each one of them, how to build trust, when and where to empathise, how to articulate yet speak from the heart, that even if they are not able to take your call, they will ensure they call you back. The next level is – think hospitality and observe carefully. Be an observer. Whenever I go out to hotels, restaurants of any kind, I get to learn each time. Allow me to share two restaurant experiences in brief.
The first is regarding a well-known Chinese joint in Delhi. One thing I noticed apart from the extremely well presented food and courteous staff, was the one staff who was allocated to my table. He was at such a comfortable distance and not staring, but making sure he exactly knew when to come with a pleasant smile and ask what I wanted and what he could do better to serve. This happened 3 times, flawlessly, where I did not need to signal him to come to my table. What went so well? To me, he is an observer, someone who takes waiting on tables from the heart and someone who has trained himself to understand the pulse of various customers.
The second experience is with an Italian joint in San Diego. This person comes and greets me in an exuberant yet graceful way, engaging me in a conversation for three whole minutes till he found me the table of my choice, but not before he took me around the restaurant for a quick tour. In the process he asked me some 4 to 5 questions, which I realised later was to understand me more in those minutes, make me feel at home and make me want to expect more on the next level service that I was about to experience. That’s daring, and then he talks me confidently into freezing down on 3 options (he knew my taste buds during that initial conversation). I ordered one but asked him if they could customise the dish slightly. He told me with a beam on his face which was something like – indeed, it would be good for our kitchen to have the opportunity to customise this dish for you in whatever way you may want. He nailed it.
How do we measure it?
That’s the deal. A process of 360 degree feedback internally and externally. The world of servicing is building relationships so deep and it should be deep. If there is any expectation to be built here, it is this – what can I do to make this relationship better and last longer and longer. The fact is actual businesses may not happen every day (except the share market), either ways it works on trust and takes a bit of time as it is a process, however it is entirely up to the individual how fast one wants to weave this. Making your Network Your NetWorth is the mantra.
Where to draw the line?
This gets tricky, however, not very difficult. First – don’t get into personal space or lives unless your client lets you get into it. Second – respect time, don’t keep talking on and on. Third – you will only be able to do the second point well if you have clarity of thought along with punctuation marks in your mind and the pace at which you speak. Fourth – develop soft skills, the primary of these skills is to first ask if it is a convenient time to speak, or how much time you are meaning to take on the call. Fixing up a prior appointment is usually better wherever possible. Fifth – summarise the discussion so that both parties are clear. I have seen many people prefer leaving items open ended, may be because of some fear factor. But my take – close, close, close conversations. Ideally, knowing your shot.
Is this for everyone and anyone?
This is for anyone who wants to indulge in it. However, it is not for everyone. Solution providers and people with a little bit of obsessive compulsive disorder have better chances of imbibing.
Today, we do not see any industry that this concept has not touched or imbibed upon. Maruti and Microsoft are great examples and many more in different verticals. In very large set-ups, a department is definitely required, however, in the essence of the concept I see it as ‘Feel’. Unless one feels this, one can’t discover and evolve in this.
(Ankoor Dasguupta is an ardent learner and coach with 18 years of learning in print, digital and mobile marketing, advertising and operations. At present, Dasguupta is part of the SHEROES family in the capacity of Vice President for Marketing, Brand Solutions and Special Projects. Share your real customer service experience with Ankoor Dasguupta on Twitter @ankurnow)