Recently I had the opportunity to chat with AAWEP Advisory Board Member and Founder and CEO of Easy Weddings, Matt Butterworth. We spoke about how Easy Weddings can help wedding industry suppliers successfully advertise their wedding businesses online.
What I wanted to highlight today from that conversation was a point Matt made about customer service. Customer Service is at the corner-stone of every business. To be served with professionalism and attention to your specific needs, is the expectation of every customer and what you must be delivering, not when you have the time, but all the time.
I know that most of you who are in business, or thinking of going into business, will know this and have every intention of delivering on that expectation, but the reality is that most businesses that fail in the first year or so, may be able to put their failure down in part, to poor customer service, or to put it more specifically, a poor understanding of what it is your customer expects from you.
Good customer service rests on a number of factors, but today I want to focus on prompt attention to enquiries. In this digital age, where your competitor is as accessible to your potential clients as you are, all with the click of a few keys of a computer or mobile device, you have to have a way of responding to enquiries promptly, even if you are running your business part-time, whilst you work a full-time job. That fact doesn’t matter to your potential client, in fact, knowing that it interferes with the way you are going to be able to do business with them, might scare them off.
Juggling a new business and your career, that makes it all financially possible is absolutely doable and something that many of our Graduates have been successful at. But if you don’t have a plan for how you manage leads and client expectations when you are not able to pick up the phone, or answer an email, you will lose business. When someone is your client, you can outline the ways in which they can contact you and your availability for things such as meetings, much more easily than you can at the point where you are trying to make them your client. Additionally, you will find that your potential customer will be drawn to the first person to comes back to them. Bang! That business now has a competitive advantage over the ones that took longer to respond and there is hard work involved in turning that around.
How Long is too Long?
Forget 24 hours. In the digital age, we are talking 2-3 hours. That means that if you are not answering your phone during the day, you need to engage a company that can do that for you. It means that you need to use your lunch hours, breaks and travel time between home and work, to answer emails (everything is mobile now, so choose a device that works for you and set up your email templates on there so you can quickly respond to those initial enquiries). These points go for wedding professionals working in their businesses full-time too. If you want new clients to follow on from the ones you are so busy with, you are going to have to have a strategy for answering their enquiries too.
Don’t let what I am saying scare you off launching your new business. You will find that there are all sorts of ‘virtual’ services available to small business owners, who need help with answering the phone and managing daily administrative tasks. You may even have a girlfriend who would enjoy a few hours of work a week and is more available than you to take calls during the day. How you do it will depend on you and your particular needs. The point is that you need to put a plan in place that will enable you to effectively manage those leads, so you have the chance to turn them into customers.