I've got some news for you. Your field of expertise might be graphic design, bookkeeping or insurance, but no matter what you do – you actually work in customer service.
That's a big call, but I'm prepared to back it up with some evidence. These are two of the hard questions that need to be asked of anyone who runs their own business:
- Where does the money come from?
In any business but especially small business, cash is king. ..and you’re probably the court jester. You may love doing the work you do, but at the end of the day, the sad truth is that bills and/or staff still need to be paid, the lights need to be kept on and hopefully you can still put food on the table.
Since your customers are the ones who (hopefully!) pay you for the work you do, it’s entirely in your best interests to keep them happy – and while of course that means doing a good job, it also means answering the phone with a smile and replying to emails reasonably quickly.
- How do you plan to stay in business?
Starting up a business is worth celebrating, but toughing it out for years is even more noteworthy! You’ll find that most successful businesses have built a following of loyal, dedicated customers who pay their bills on time and eagerly recommend the quality of the service they’ve received.
If you’re not giving your clients any reason to part with their hard-earned cash (i.e. the work is late, the quality is unreliable, or even worse, you don’t invoice!), it will be hard for you to tough it out long-term. Putting a little effort into how you service your customers (which sounds suspiciously like customer service to me!) will go along way.
Similarly, if you don’t give your clients any reason to recommend you to others who may need your product or service, you’re shooting yourself in the foot. Studies have shown that word-of-mouth recommendations are far more powerful than any advertisement – and I have it on good authority that they’re far more economical as well!
Here’s a quick thought – how often have you bagged out bad service that you’ve received? How often have you gone out of your way to tell someone never to go somewhere? Is that just me? Surely not…
So next time you’re doing a job, think of how you’re serving your customers. Taking care of them will go a very long way towards growing your business!
Sarah-Joy Pierce works for a small business consultancy called exceler8 Business Development. She's also the co-author of Build Your Business, Build Your Life, and is passionate about seeing small businesses succeed. If you need a kick-start to achieving your business goals, take a look at the book here.