Your customers should be your top priority. Without them, you won’t have a business. Having a great product is one thing. Selling it is paramount for your business. As an SME leader, your focus should be on volume. The more customers who buy your products and services, the bigger your business. Simple. Accountants may not be directly customer facing, but they still have a vital role to play in your customer support team.
Accountants and customer support
One of the key roles of an accountant is, to interact with both vendors and customers to ensure business continuity. This is important for building and maintaining your SME’s reputation. It is important for an SME leader to realise that accountants interact on daily with the people who;
1) are in charge of keeping your business going (customers) and
2) help establish your credit and are responsible for your raw goods (vendors)
Customer support involves a range of customer services that assist customers in making cost effective and proper use of your products. It includes assistance in installation, troubleshooting, maintenance, upgrading, and the disposal of your products. Here are some tips for improving your customer support.
Tip 1: Clear communication
Direct communication usually takes the form of phone calls and emails. Indirect communication comes from paying bills on time and responding to vendor and customer’s messages promptly. Your accountant’s direct and indirect communications with your customers may have a much bigger impact than you realise.
People make mistakes. Misunderstandings can happen. Small errors or miscommunications can snowball into big issues. Make sure your customer support team are on top of the situation and resolve matters quickly. They must know your products and terms and conditions. They must be briefed and to the point. Your customers don’t need to hear a long-winded story or excuses. Be clear and concise when dealing with your customers. Don’t be vague or ambiguous.
Tip 2: Empathise
Try developing empathy in your customer support team by getting them to ask themselves the simple question: “How do I put myself in my customers’ shoes?” This should help them deal better with their customers.
The world of business is made better by emotional intelligence (EQ). Developing and using your EQ should impact your customer services staff. Empathy is part of EQ. It is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. Your customer support rep’s ability to empathise with your customers and craft a message that steers things toward a better outcome can often make all the difference.
If your client is having problems managing a new accounting software package, then they may need an accountant’s guidance. If you have a zero EQ member of staff, then they should not be working in your customer support team. Put them somewhere more relevant in your organisation like the Accounts Payable department.
Tip 3: Cultural Intelligence
Your customer support staff may be serving clients across SE Asia. Different countries and cities have different cultures. Your customer support staffs need to be able to adapt their communications across different cultures. This requires cultural intelligence (CQ). Supporting a customer in Singapore is very different from supporting a customer in Malaysia or another SE Asian country.
Language can also be a challenge with poor English or poor pronunciation causing misunderstandings or irritation. Different countries may have different laws and jurisdictions which mean that audit, tax and bookkeeping are done differently. The customer support needed for accounting software and other products may be different ,and your customer support reps will need to be aware of these.
Effective customer support requires people skills; communication, empathy and cultural understanding. Staffs who are new to the role will need to be properly trained to speed up their learning curves. This will help them, and your business, reach the goal of reducing the number of problems that arise and provide better service from the beginning.