When starting or growing a business, customer service is often something that can get left behind in the frantic rush. Sage Business Expert Craig Sharp explains how much of his success comes down to good customer service and going the extra mile.
It’s such a well-worn phrase, “going the extra mile”. But in truth it’s what makes the difference between a good business and a great business. My business is IT Support and so clients expect you to meet all of their technical demands by fixing faults or installing new software – that’s what an IT Support provider does. What makes you stand out from the crowd of other IT providers are the things which they don’t expect but which make a huge difference to their business day to day.
You need a broad range of skills to run a small business – but ironically the one skill that most people assume is 100% necessary to run an IT company – the technical / programming skills – are the ones that can often get in the way of turning your IT business into a good IT business. Many technical people are brilliant at the detail, brilliant at making the IT sing and brilliant at configuring that security firewall which other companies have failed to master. However their technical focus can lead to them to miss the ‘soft skills’ that are so important to maintain client relationships.
Sometimes this ‘extra mile’ can simply be working a little longer or working after the rest have called it a day, but there are other things you can do which make a difference to clients and which are less about the practical and more about business support. Providing advice, consultancy and business development ideas to customers can often leave a greater impression.
Understanding, helping and meeting regularly with clients is a necessary part of any IT business in my opinion, and it’s what sets you apart from other similar companies. Many technically focused IT providers will fix support tickets and respond (by email) to issues raised to the helpdesk, but they fail to see the huge value that comes from meeting a client face-to-face. This physical meeting is without parallel – allowing both parties to raise things which often may not be raised by formal support tickets. All of us in IT get the “Oh, while you’re here I ……” comments when we do arrive on site, but rather than see these as frustrating, see them as opportunities.
Use these ‘surprise’ requests to perhaps reinforce the idea that staff can raise any issue to your support desk and demonstrate the method used. I will sometimes simply take the “while you are here” request and raise the ticket myself so that the issue is covered. You also have to see these site visits as opportunities for new work – sometimes by noting the age of IT hardware and recommending upgrades; sometimes by using the face-to-face opportunity to mention a new service you are looking to deploy along with the benefits it will bring; or simply by making sure the client and their staff see your face regularly. It is common for business owners to look around for other IT providers because they never see a real person and go on to say things like “well, we never see the current provider, they only ever call in or email us”.
So, when providing IT support and advice to your clients, it’s not only about following the rules, it’s not only about giving good technical service, but it’s also about giving your customer a good experience that shows you’ve “gone the extra mile”