Dr Kesterson in Bridgeport, Nebraska knows that offering ultrasound to preg check cows gives his producers invaluable information for making management decisions.
By Hilary Parker
Today, we’re asking a question that bovine veterinarians are often too busy to ask themselves: Is your customer service good enough to ensure your clients won’t go somewhere else?
After all, just because you have worked with a dairy farm or cattle ranch for a while — even years — that doesn’t mean that the producer couldn’t up and try another vet in your area. He or she may be keeping an ear to the ground for tips on other bovine vets… unless, that is, your skills are complemented by strong customer service.
Susan Ward, a frequently-cited small business consultant, notes that while good salespeople can sell anything to anyone once, good customer service is all about bringing customers back. It’s also about sending them away happy, she says — happy enough that they recommend you, your team and your work to others.
“How do you go about forming such a relationship?” she asks. “By remembering the one true secret of good customer service and acting accordingly: ‘You will be judged by what you do, not what you say.’”
The IBEX bovine ultrasound is an excellent way to provide great customer service!
Ward offers the following tips for establishing good customer service:
1) Answer your phone.
Get call forwarding, an answering service — even hire staff if you need to. But make sure that someone is picking up the phone when a current or potential calls your business. And no, a recorded robot is not the same thing as a live person.
2) Don't make promises unless you will keep them.
Not plan to keep them — will keep them. Reliability is one of the keys to any good relationship, and good customer service is no exception. If you say, “I’ll be back to check on the herd on Tuesday,” make sure you’re there on Tuesday. Otherwise, don't say it. The same rule applies to client appointments, AI schedules, etc. Think before you give any promise, because nothing annoys customers more than a broken one.
3) Listen to your customers.
There’s nothing more exasperating from a customer’s perspective than telling their vet about a problem they’re experiencing and then discovering that that person hasn't been paying attention and needs to have it explained again. Listen long and hard to your customers. Let them talk and show them that you are listening by making the appropriate responses. Don’t cut them off mid-sentence or assume you understand the entire nature of the problem until they’ve finished, even if you suspect that you do. The animal is the patient, but the producer is the customer.
4) Deal with complaints.
No one likes hearing complaints, and many of us have developed a reflex shrug, saying, “You can't please all the people all the time.” Maybe not, but if you give the complaint your attention, you may be able to please this one person this one time — and position your business to reap the benefits of good customer service.
5) Be helpful — even if there's no immediate profit in it.
The other day I popped into a local watch shop because I had lost the small piece that clips the pieces of my watchband together. When I explained the problem, the proprietor said that he thought he might have one lying around. He found it, attached it to my watchband — and charged me nothing! Where do you think I'll go when I need a new watchband or even a new watch? And how many people do you think I've told this story to?
6) Train your staff (if you have any) to be always helpful, courteous and knowledgeable.
Do it yourself or, if your schedule is too hairy, hire someone to train them. Talk to them about good customer service and what it is (and isn't) regularly. Better yet, show them with your own customer interactions. Most importantly, give every member of your staff enough information and power to make those small customer-pleasing decisions, so he or she never has to say, “I don't know, but so-and-so will be back at...”
7) Take the extra step.
For instance, if someone walks into your office and asks you to help them find something that you don’t happen to carry, don't just say, “Sorry, we don’t carry that.” Instead, give them ideas on where they could find it and then take that extra step to call the store and ask. Whatever the extra step may be, if you want to provide good customer service, take it. They may not say so to you, but people notice when you and your staff make an extra effort and they will tell other people.
8) Throw in something extra.
Whether it's a coupon for a future discount, additional information on how to use the product or a genuine smile, people love to get more than they thought they were getting. And don’t think that a gesture has to be large to be effective. The local art framer that we use attaches a package of picture hangers to every picture he frames. It may be a small thing, but it’s so appreciated.
Of course, the trick is to apply these tips consistently. Doing half of them some of the time isn’t what will resonate with your customers. But if you can turn these tips into habits, you’ll be the vet that your clients refer other producers to.