By: Marsha J. Naegeli–Teraci, CEO and Founder NAEGELI Deposition and Trial
Modern companies may enjoy meteoric success, remain static, or falter and expire. The variety of factors involved in their subsequent rise or fall may be as varied as their individual fiscal equations. The most compelling ideation for this environment of success or failure is often their approach to client service. Successful companies realize that they are in the business of being “in service.” Taking care of clients is an integral part of the corporate product, and as with all corporate services, it is highly competitive. Those who do it well thrive; those who do not, falter and fail.
When J.C. Penney first opened his now-famous emporium in 1902, it was called “The Golden Rule Store.” He set a business standard for service founded on the moral principle, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” This maxim of putting the client first became pervasive in American enterprise for the next 80 years. Companies adopted this principle, not only in relations with consumers, but also with their personnel. Company loyalty was important, for both the employer and the employee. My father and mother worked for the same company their entire lives, as did many hard-working people during that era. Sincerity in business and personal relationships was the watchword of the times. It became axiomatic and synonymous with success. In the 1950’s and ‘60’s “the customer comes first” was still the motto of most businesses.
In the recession-ridden 1980’s however, businesses began to focus on cutting overhead and eliminating quality client services in favor of cost reductions. Companies changed their focus from doing what was best for their clients to doing what was best for themselves, whether it was advantageous for the clients or not! The result of this altered philosophy was short-term profits and long-term client alienation.
Unfortunately, that inverted philosophy is still alive and well today in much of corporate America. Client sincerity has been lost.The apathy apparent in businesses today is appalling. Even calling for information can become a time-consuming ordeal. Who has not been put on interminable hold when calling with urgent questions, or worse, pushed buttons through multiple phone menus, only to be disconnected. In this day and age, reaching a “real live person” on the other end of the line is often considered a coup.
Repeat business is what makes a corporation successful, and losing a client through poor service can be expensive. A three-year study by the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) in Washington, D.C., demonstrated that modest-sized businesses with a heavy emphasis on client service were more likely to thrive than others whose emphasis was lower prices or product quality. Another recent study from the University of Kentucky stated that only five percent of dissatisfied clients bother to complain; those remaining simply never come back.
This client dissatisfaction is pervasive in our modern society, with resulting pecuniary problems for businesses unwilling to make accommodations. Sadly, in many venues the client is receiving the most disrespect of any time in the past century.Putting the client first; what a concept! When did simply getting needs met get so complicated and the client become a persona non grata? Although clients may be treated shabbily elsewhere, there is no excuse for it in any industry. As the CEO and Founder of NAEGELI Deposition and Trial I can state unequivocally that we do not have 1950’s technology, but we do have 1950’s client respect. Although the digital age is here to stay, old-fashioned client courtesy must be the wave of the future, not the past.
There are some very simple rules for providing clients with the service of the past coupled with the leading edge technology of the future. The first begins with the initial contact – telephone service. A company has one opportunity to make a positive, first impression on a new client. No one should be expected to go through a series of telephone menus or be placed on hold more than 20 seconds before speaking to someone who can answer questions. “We are the YES people,” says Richard Teraci, Vice President of NAEGELI Deposition and Trial. “My answer is always ‘Yes’ even before I hear the client’s request. Absolutely, we can take care of your needs, no matter what they may be.”
We also realize that client needs do not always mesh with a corporation’s needs or regular business hours. In a corporation, the client’s needs must come first. They are never asked to “leave a message” and wait for an answer. At NAEGELI Deposition and Trial there is always a professional available to assist the client with any problem that may arise. To provide requisite services for those individuals, a business manager is available 24 hours a day and on weekends to answer questions and schedule depositions for the next business day.
The second rule is to continue offering clients the same courtesy in all professional interactions. We believe in maintaining the client’s trust for life. That means satisfying any need the client may have quickly and efficiently. This includes scheduling depositions, assisting attorneys to choose the formats that will best meet their needs, providing a quality product using the latest technology, and delivering it on time. We do not out-source our services; they are all produced within the corporation with a product line that far exceeds the industry standard. We guarantee that our clients will receive quality service; you cannot do that unless you have control over the process.
The final aspect of outstanding client service revolves around a company’s leadership. A culture of courtesy will always come from the top. Many people talk the talk, but very few walk the walk. Simply giving “lip service” will not effect change. If a manager treats clients with respect and insists that it be a corporate policy, company employees will also make it a priority. The most valuable commodity we have is our time. When clients spend extra time trying to get good service, they will go elsewhere; usually to a company that values client service and treats them with the respect they deserve.
Merging the technology of the 21st Century with the client service of the 1950’s has helped us maintain our client base and expand our business to encompass a national market over the last quarter of a century. I believe that true client care has been lost; however, our company has changed that. Going back to basics is essential, and the most basic goal of all should be client service. To finish first in the legal field, you must go backwards to go forward!