Category Archive: Customer Service

The Power of Powerful Partnerships

I was having trouble the other day with a product I was using, so I called customer service. And as the phone conversation continued, I realized I was talking to somebody who didn’t actually work for the company that I was calling. After I’d gotten my issue resolved and hung up, I really got to thinking about it – it seems like everything these days is outsourced.

And that makes sense, right? Why not let a specialist handle the things they specialize in, while you focus on your own strengths? Hey, it’s why I called customer service in the first place. Nobody’s writing their own accounting software or developing their own CRM platform from scratch anymore. And whether it’s printing pamphlets or mass production, businesses find that it’s fitting to just let somebody else focus on a task they really want to do.

And yet – in many cases – outsourcing leaves you and your company exposed to greater risk. Who are these guys?  Do they care? Are they actually with the company they say they are – or is this 3 generations removed from someone responsible?

One of the things that we’ve done here at CMW that has helped us excel over the last 20+ years is a relentless commitment to being a True Partner. That is – when someone outsources a project to us – we treat it as OUR project. And when we have occasion to bring in an expert – we look for the same attitude and PARTNERING PROCESSES.

Let me share some thoughts about why this works for us, in the hopes that if you read something that resonates with you, it might just be worth trying for your own business.

  1. Communication. Communication is a lot smoother when everyone is in the same physical space. But Zoom meetings, conference calls can work too. Yes, the ability to walk to the next cubicle, ask a question, and get a swift response in real time, is a welcome breeze. But better, more efficient, and more frequent communication is a question of commitment. In a nutshell, sometimes it’s just good to walk down the hall and get something fixed. But, the really great thing is to know WHO to call and to know that they WILL fix the problem. That’s true whether they’re sharing a fridge with you are in an office 100 miles away.
  2. Quality. Quality is a central theme of our company, and it’s something that we can focus on a lot easier with in-house hiring. If you have strict standards and attention to detail that you adhere to for quality control, being able to oversee projects firsthand lets you make sure that nothing falls by the wayside.
  3. Intellectual Property and Company Data. Intellectual property and company data are precious. Keeping confidential material confidential is much easier to do when you can keep a closer eye on it. But more importantly, it’s really about working with people who know and respect the importance of your IP.
  4. Rates. Shopping for the most economical specialist is time-consuming and risky. The lowest cost provider isn’t necessarily the most economical – OVERALL-way to go. Pick a partner you trust and work well with together, and your work will get done on time, to-spec and to the delight of YOUR clients.
  5. Star power. Star power? Yes. Say you find the perfect specialist, a true professional, who excels at what they do…but they’re outside your company. But those stars, and your close, lasting relationship with them, can still help make your company distinct.

The decision to outsource or pull from in-house is an incredibly important one, and, because of that, a very difficult one. There are pros and cons of each that you should examine given how your own company runs – your strengths and limitations, your values. But in an increasingly outsourced world, we at CMW have found that a Partnering Mindset is key when our clients trust us to get the job done. And we’re proud of that!

How Can We Help? Four Ways to Improve Your Customer Service

The customer is always right…but sometimes they need help. Sometimes that’s a question about a product – but it’s also making sure that product is exactly what it needs to be in the first place. See, here at CMW, quality is key, and that means that good customer service includes not only being there for a client after the service, but also before and during. They should never be in the dark – and, critically, you shouldn’t either. Here are four simple steps that have worked for CMW to turn on the light and improve our customer service.

  1. Access (Before). Great customer service starts with access. Can they find your great customer service – or even just you – in the first place? It might seem like a given, but you’d be surprised at how many businesses needlessly complicate access to their services without even realizing it. One great way to solve this, that we really believe in, is a “blind shopping” test. Basically, have a third party that isn’t familiar with your company act as a potential client and run them through some simulations. How quickly, easily, efficiently, can they find what they need to find? You don’t want your customers to have to jump through hoops to find answers or worse, never find them or give up before they do.
  2. Clarity (Before & During). What’s the difference between a client’s needs and a kitten? A client’s needs can never, ever be fuzzy. Fuzzy details are the greatest enemy of good customer service. What does your client want? Really…what does your client actually want? Specifically, logistically, step-by-step. Make sure your team is persistent and insistent in understanding their every requirement to a T; never assume what a client wants, never begin work based on what you think they want.
  3. Expectations (During). This step can be a challenge, but – believe me – it’s essential. Customer service is critically empowered by realistic expectation-setting. If you know you can’t get a project done by Wednesday, you shouldn’t promise to get a project done by Wednesday; request more time. Yes, the client may be disgruntled. And yes, maybe, worst case scenario – they cancel. However, losing one client is better than compromising your reputation and integrity by missing a deadline without letting the customer know. Be honest and straightforward. It can be difficult, but whether they seem like it or not…your client will at least appreciate that.
  4. Follow-up (After). Finally, the best customer service doesn’t end after the service is complete. Reach out to your client to follow up, rather than waiting for them to call you. Check in and make sure that they received everything they expected, that they are satisfied with the result; ask if there is anything else that you can do for them. If you wait too long, you risk…the water cooler. The water cooler is what happens if your client stews on a perceived production issue for days before contacting your customer service about it, and in that time, they talk. They spread their dissatisfaction to their colleagues – spread something that may very well be their issue, not yours. Practicing proactive follow-up is the best preventative measure for a potential soiling of your reputation.

Customer service can be tough. It can mean telling a client something they don’t want to hear. It can mean asking again, and again, at the sake of sounding repetitive, exactly what they do want. And it can mean trying to politely explain to a client something they might be doing – well – wrong. But excellent customer service is key in forming strong relationships with your clients, maintaining a positive reputation, and – perhaps most importantly here at CMW – never letting quality suffer. It, supported by the right processes, becomes a point of differentiation that, if you’re committed, will continue to create a gap between you and your competitors. Even when customers try out a competitor, they’ll come back when they realize your customer service is unmatched. Alright, so…any questions? How can we help?

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