Successful businesspeople know that good client service goes a long way toward retaining clients and ultimately generating new business. But they also know that good client service starts with, and includes, how you treat your staff.
Richard Ford, president and CEO of Regal Limousine Service in North Hampton, N.H., started his business in 1983 with one vehicle. Today, Ford maintains a 40-vehicle fleet with 55 chauffeurs and he credits much of his success to paying attention to internal and external client service.
Ford acknowledges that in our industry, we often have the same cars, the same names, similar uniforms and similar clients. ?Our people are the difference,? Ford says. ?It?s our individual staff members and their ability to sell, promote and operate our business that makes the difference.?
Finding and Keeping Good Employees Conduct a thorough hiring process. Ford says that in his experience multiple interviews are often necessary and he always makes a point of conducting the final interview himself. Always note your first impression. ?You?d be surprised how many people show up for an interview wearing jeans, and this makes a difference,? he says. Take note of whether the person shows up on time and how he or she is dressed. Check out whether the applicant?s references are real, and consider whether he or she would be a good ?fit? for your company.
? Provide a detailed orientation program for new hires. Your orientation program should include written policies, procedures and guidelines. Explain what it takes to succeed at your company and why some people have failed in the past. Explain all the details of the job so there are no surprises later. Ford also advises following the new hire for 90 days, often called a probationary period.
? Understand what motivates employees. Most people come to work wanting to do well and achieve, but in order to provide the opportunity for growth, you need to have an understanding of what motivates people and what their needs are. Psychologist Abraham Maslow developed ?Maslow?s Hierarchy of Needs,? a pyramid that categorizes human needs into several levels (see diagram below). Maslow developed this theory in 1943 and it has become one of the most popular and often cited theories of human motivation.
? Be honest with your employees. Explain up front what is expected from them and then follow through with periodic updates. Have company-wide meetings when possible. Ford holds regular ?lunch with the president? meetings. ?At first these were gripe sessions,? says Lyndy Burnham, director of corporate development for Regal. ?After awhile, the meetings became more productive and a venue for sharing ideas and solutions.? Encourage your employees to offer solutions by rewarding the problem solvers.
? Communicate with your employees. Send an informal newsletter to your staff every month, and send it to their home. Include information about the company, new policies, new staff, and always keep the tone positive. List names of outstanding service providers in your organization and quote positive client testimonial letters and telephone calls that you have received.
? Reward and recognize employees. Consider an employee-of-the-month program, making sure to include non-management staff in the selection process. Awards can include movie tickets, gift certificates to a restaurant, a preferred parking space, the employee?s photo on the company Web site, or a wall plaque in the office.
Finding and Keeping Clients ? Consider offering a service guarantee. Many other companies in different industries offer such guarantees. An example is ... for more on this topic, see the May issue of LCT magazine!