When Arleen and I started our first company, Insurance Licensing Services of America (ILSA), we knew that our main “competitors” would be our clients themselves. None of the services we offered were things that an agent or agency couldn’t do for themselves if they wanted to. To make our business work, our team needed to get to know our clients, to really understand their needs and to meet those needs in a way that exceeded their expectations. We were client-centered before it was cool.
Creating a Client-Centered Business
Customer satisfaction isn’t a new idea. Business owners have always tried to offer their goods and services in a way that appeals to customers. And, of course, any business with clients needs a certain amount of satisfaction from those clients in order to stay in business.
Even though the idea of client-centered business is not new, what that actually looks like changes as personal needs and technology advance. Today, we have a very diverse population with wide range of needs and expectations. So what does it take to get (and stay) client-centric? Is it an idea, a process, or a skill set?
Being a business centered on the client starts with understanding what services they need. To understand what clients need, strong research and communication skills are essential. Knowing the market can give you a general idea, but you must communicate with individual clients as well. This requires a strong business model, aligned across departments, with clear strategies and an overall culture that is built around meeting customer needs.
For example, in the grocery business, if the only people that cared about meeting the needs of the customer were those on the front lines, such as cashiers, that store would fail. Cashiers can’t meet the needs of the customers if the grocery team, store managers, and store owners are not in the background making sure the cashier has the resources they need to do so.
The same goes for all businesses. A customer service or client representative with no backup will not be able to meet the needs that could promote satisfaction – no matter how much effort they devote to it.
Design the Experience
But how can we get the entire business on the same page? A business model should have a specific and overlapping design about the client experience. Basic questions to guide how the customer experience will go might include:
- Who is on the front line of communication?
- How are we meeting the needs of the client with our services?
- What happens when a need isn’t met?
- Who can meet specific needs of a client?
There should be several “roadmaps” to help employees guide the client to a solution. A client-centered business is not just a great slogan for advertising! Businesses have to keepthe customers once they get them in the door with a team effort aimed at meeting client needs.
Even with a strong business model and employee training that is specifically designed to meet the requests of clients, no two clients will have the same needs or require the same kind of attention. A company must expect variation and be able to adapt to those variances with the same attention and care as their standard model. Employees on the front lines of client communication should be empowered to listen to needs and communicate those needs internally to provide the best service throughout the company. Communication throughout the company should be the expectation, not a bonus feature.
Communication and Feedback
Marketing a business can’t stop once the client is in the door. Businesses need to continue marketing their services or products to current clients, based on those clients’ specific needs. Communication, both with client and with those working on their behalf within a business, is how you can remain reputable while continuing to grow client accounts and increase overall satisfaction.
With the advent of social media, it’s even more important that businesses fulfill their promise to customers and clients alike as everyone now has a platform to announce their pleasure or distaste with a company’s service.
Tying It All Together
While needs vary from person to person, meeting or exceeding needs of clients is an achievable goal when all the moving parts of a business are geared toward the same outcome. In short, a client-centered business is an idea driven by company design that highlights specific skills and processes that work together to put the client first in a business transaction.
The links below provide more information on client-centered business: