Are you one of those business owners who is always going around looking for trouble?

That’s a good thing.

Customer service can have many different faces, from a paid strategy call to a text message in the middle of the night, and everything in between. Fielding issues with a client might not be at the top of our list of fun things to do, but they are necessary to maintaining that great relationship you have with your customer.

Pop the question

A few years ago, I attended a training given by a business consultant named Neil Godin (no relation to Seth that I’m aware of :-). Neil coined the phrase “looking for trouble” as a customer service best practice. It basically means contacting all your current clients and asking them a simple question: “How’s it going? Are you happy with our service? Any problems?” Ok that’s 3 questions but you get the idea. The best answer you can hope form ironically, is “Yes, there are problems!”

Now, the client might have problems that he/she doesn’t even connect with you. Let’s say you’re their accountant and their problem is they can’t keep their books straight. Do you know a bookkeeper who can help? As a web designer, I hear about problems from my clients ranging from computer issues (solution: try updating to the latest OS), too much back and forth with email for appointments (solution: use Calendly.com), Facebook account was hacked (sorry, can’t help with that one), and just general business issues like where to look for more clients.

I’m always amazed when I ask those questions because people are generally thrilled to have someone ask it. What they tell you may have nothing to do with you, but they may appreciate a listening ear. If they do have a problem specifically with something they either think is related to your service, or they know is related to your service, it’s great that you’re there getting ahead of it rather than waiting for their frustrations to boil over and they finally contact you.

If you want to be strategic about it, you can schedule consultations every so often and charge for them or bundle them into a monthly fee. But if you’re not concerned about reaching out on email or even having a quick “catch up” call to show them you are available and willing to be of any assistance you can, it can go a long way toward strengthening your customer relationships.

I have clients who have been with me for years. How does that happen? Basically from being there for them when they need help, being responsive, and “looking for trouble” every so often, even if I’m not strictly speaking being paid for the time and effort.

Why look for trouble? Who needs it?

Some of the benefits of looking for trouble:
– you can be a hero on the spot if you can fix an issue they are having
– you strengthen your relationship
– you show the client you care (strengthening the relationship)
– you can find out what their current issues are which can spark an idea for a new solution or service you can offer
– you’re creating a huge amount of good will which could translate into reviews or referrals

I’m not talking about a newsletter blast to everyone on your list. I’m talking about reaching out personally via email (no bcc: ). If you want each email to say the same thing and just copy and paste, that’s ok, but I think you’ll find once you start, you’ll want to include a few details that you know about each person. Not as a tactic, but just simply because you’re interested. Does this person love to swim? Do they travel a lot? What I’m saying is be yourself as you enquire. Depending on how many clients you want to reach out to, the whole thing should take less than an hour.

Recently I reached out to a long-term client to see how things were going. She told me still loves her website after three years and gets almost all her clients from it, and business is booming.

Case in point: creating good will

Here’s an example of the “looking for trouble” outreach that Neil cited in his training and that kind of sums it up:

A carpet installation company had installed a wall to wall carpet in an elderly lady’s home. The company was a client of Neil and had been advised to go looking for trouble. They called this woman and asked how was she enjoying her new carpet. The lady began to weep on the phone. “What’s wrong?” said the representative. “It’s the wrong color!” said the woman. “Oh no, we installed the wrong color??” The company rep was horrified that this could happen. “No!” said the woman. “I picked the wrong color!”

She had picked a color she thought would be beautiful to look at all through her home, but once it was in, she realized she had made a terrible mistake and was sick about it.

What to do? The carpet installer ripped the whole thing out and gave her a new color, which she loved. The amount of good will created in a situation like that is incalculable.

Another learning for the carpet company: Hire a design consultant to work with customers as part of the service to make sure that doesn’t happen again.

Try to make room to look for trouble in the next month or two. You might be surprised at the benefits.