Managing the flow of information
Content provided by a guest contributor.
Managing information is a crucial part of offering a professional service. Clients (customers) are frustrated these days: many feel that they have become a number to large companies. The personal touch is disappearing as large companies bring more uniformity and structure into their processes. This is a great opportunity for SMEs to add value in a way that the larger companies are unable to do.
So let us get practical. What does Management of Information really mean? Management of information is about ensuring that the right people (your clients) get the right information, at the right time. Let us run through a few examples. You may have new products or services, or introduced new processes in your business.
Firstly, you need to think consciously if and how these impact on your clients. If your clients will be affected, you need to work out how you are going to communicate the message to them. For instance, you may have appointed a client liaison person or project manager who will be responsible for dealing with clients. It is your role to communicate this to your clients and to spell out how you would like them to interact with this person.
Or you may need to communicate on the new products and services you are offering. As SMEs grow in size, the need becomes greater to set up processes and procedures to facilitate contact with clients and management of the business (this is a topic on its own).
Do you send your clients an email or do you communicate your message verbally? In some cases it makes sense to send the same message to everyone. In others you may need to talk to your clients personally. Your communication then needs to have a clear objective and spell out what will be happening, how it will affect your clients and the role they may take.
Another example is where a client comes to you with a query. Often what happens is that the client fails to get feedback on what has happened to their request. The client’s experience is that their request has gone into this “black hole” or “cyberspace”. The client perceives this as silence or that their request has been ignored and. They have no idea as to whether action will be taken.
When a client submits a query, acknowledge receipt of their query within 24hrs and indicate what action you intend taking and by when. Let them know when you will furnish them with an answer. Yes you need to commit to action and a deadline. In this way the client knows that you are doing something about their request and that client care and service is important to you.
If the process is taking longer than anticipated, get back to the client and communicate this to them. Clients become angry and frustrated these days when they are left out of the communication loop. One can see this clearly with the amount of irate clients call centre consultants are handling.
Another area you can consider is continually thinking how you can add value to your clients. What additional information is there that may be of use to your clients? What trends are you picking up in your line of business that may be of benefit to your clients? Send them a few lines per email.
The bottom line is that you will not be in business if you fail to take care of your clients! Top of mind you need to be thinking the whole time of how you can add value to your clients and what information needs to be managed back to them. Yes, this can be a full time job, but this is one easy way of retaining clients and building long term relationships with them.