By Fran McClean, PLS
When you think of client service, what comes to mind? Think about it. Client service is all about how we treat our clients. Take a moment to think about your day. Are you providing excellent or proper client service (both internally and externally)? If you are not sure how you can improve the quality of service, below are a few attributes to consider:
- Be friendly. When we interact with other people, we generally seek a positive response. Being friendly has a lot to do with how others respond to you. Be sure to greet with a smile; be affable, inviting, and always professional.
- Make customers feel important and appreciated. Always use their name and find ways to compliment them, but be sincere. People value sincerity—it creates good feeling and trust.
- Be approachable. Use body language that says they can feel comfortable coming to you. Standing with a frown and arms crossed with a head down says “I do not wish to be bothered” or “I am not in the mood.” It puts people off when you show that you are put off by their presence. Before any words are spoken, your body does the talking for you. Always be aware of how you come across.
- Appreciate the power of “Yes.” Always look for ways to help your clients. When they have a request (as long as it is reasonable), tell them that you can do it. Figure out how afterwards. Look for ways to make doing business with you easy. Always do what you say you are going to do.
- Be proactive. Show a sense of urgency, particularly if something goes wrong. Do not make excuses; tell the client that you will see what can be done and then follow up promptly with your solution. Clients must know they are in good hands regardless of their issues. When something goes wrong, apologize.
- Be positive. Maintain a reputation of excellence. “We are what we repeatedly do.” This means practice makes perfect and it will soon become a habit. What you do in a daily routine contributes to your character. Being positive and demonstrating consistent diligence and efficiency will give clients confidence in your abilities. They will come back to you because once they feel they have the best, there is no need to look any further.
- Be mindful of your tone of voice. Your voice can speak volumes about you, even through the phone. Did you know when you answer the phone promptly and smile, people can actually hear it? So make sure your tone of voice speaks with smiles and empathy.
- Be a good listener. Take the time to identify client needs by asking questions and concentrating on what the client is really saying. Beware of making assumptions. People appreciate it when they feel you want to understand their point of view.
- Be organized. Keeping a clean, organized, and clutter-free work space (or not) says a lot about you. So, keep your work space organized; it provides a perception of competency, efficiency, and quality.
- Be careful with email. Remember, once it is out there, it is out there! Thoughtful care with words written in an email is extremely important. What you say is indelible and you cannot take it back. When dealing with emails with multiple addressees, do not automatically hit “reply all”—it is often unnecessary and it can become quite annoying. You might use the phone instead of email unless email is totally necessary. Your voice is easier to interpret than the tone of any email.
- Sometimes the client just needs to vent.
- Perhaps you are the third, fourth, or fifth person they have talked to about the same thing.
- They may be in a time crunch and cannot spend a lot of time trying to take care of the matter.
- Most people are well intended and you just caught them at the wrong moment.
- You have a lot of power and responsibility to ensure the client has made the right decision to use your service.
- Send the client away with something. Whether it is something you can give them free, the ability to resolve the situation, or the assurance that you will follow up, let them know they have been heard and their concerns will be addressed.
To conclude, strive for intentional excellence. Be on top of your game each day. Set a daily intention to be the best you can be in your profession. Find joy and gratification in doing your job well!
- Tips for Providing Excellent Customer Service, Student Success Center Renton Technical College, Renton, WA, www.RTC.edu.
- 12 Characteristics of Excellent Customer Service, Center for Sight, www.centerforsight.net.
- The Ten Commandments of Great Customer Service, from Susan A. Friedman, www.marketing.about.com.
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Fran McClean, PLS is a member of NALS. . .the association for legal professionals and a member of NALS of Northeast Ohio. She is also the secretarial support services manager at Thompson Hine LLP in Cleveland, Ohio.