I work with people’s health, appearances and self-esteem on a daily basis. And if I have learnt anything in my 20 years doing so, it is that being sensitive to my patient’s needs and emotions is crucial to ensuring they are satisfied customers.
This concept is not only relevant to the health industry but also applies to any industry that deals with people. Insensitivity can mean losing clients, opening your business to harsh critique or even losing future referrals from business prospects. Most importantly, as business people, we have a responsibility to care for every client and customer who requires our goods and services. This means we must strive to understand and attend to every need and emotion our clients direct at us.
If we don’t listen, this can have much larger implications for us.
I have had an experience with a specialist who was particularly insensitive to the clients I referred to him. My clients came back to me with stories of business policy being put above any reference to personal struggles that were going on in their life. Not once did the specialist listen to the clients he was looking after. I was shocked by the insensitivity being displayed. So I literally stopped referring to him. There are so many decent specialists out there, why on earth would I refer any business to someone that does not represent me and what I value.
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So here are three ways that you can ensure you are being sensitive towards your clients.
1. Empathy: Listen first
We all like playing hero. Admit it.
The first mistake that most people make when a client exposes their needs and emotions is they want to act immediately. But offering help without first acknowledging the reality of their need or feeling is the definition of insensitive.
My patients are often self-conscious and unsure of themselves. They often come to me so that I can help them transform a significant part of their identity. This can be an emotional rollercoaster of fear, desire and excitement. If I ignore what my patient is feeling and proceed to talk about procedures and costs, I have just squashed their confidence underfoot. Usually, I spend considerable time listening to my clients talk about how they are feeling about the process, what they hope it will achieve and their own personal fears.
Listening first is the best way of showing that you are empathetic, understand their needs, and demonstrating you truly understand the motivation of your client. Only after letting them talk should any action begin.
2. Assurance: Ask questions
Okay, so you’ve listened. What next?
You might be tempted to start working on the project. You understand what they want, you’re ready.
You need to assure your client that you are on the same page as them. Even if you already understand what they want, it is a good idea to ask questions that get the client to repeat their needs and feelings out loud, to assure them that you invested in giving them what they want, and that you also truly understand them
Examples of follow up questions from my own industry might look like this:
‘So the teeth whitening will help you feel more confident on your wedding day?’
‘Acne can make you feel uncomfortable. Has it ever been painful?’
‘We have discussed a range of facial treatments. How are you hoping to feel after we are finished in this process?’
Asking questions, even obvious ones, will help your client to feel that their needs are being met by you. After they are comfortable, you can begin working on what they actually need from you.
3. Satisfaction: Seek feedback
Once a client has received their goods or service, it can be hard to know whether they were satisfied.
Asking for feedback is an excellent way to show that you are still sensitive to clients’ needs, even after they have paid you!
Asking for a customer’s opinion will let them feel that they are truly valued, and you understood their needs, even if they were dissatisfied with your service. Only when we learn what we need to improve, can we grow and add value to our clients in the future. As an added bonus, feedback is an excellent way to improve your business and ensure that you are consistently meeting the needs and emotions of your future clients.