Connecting with clients is fundamentally different than simply serving clients. Connection requires intention and elevated energy – intangible costs that may seem too expensive for many. For me, client connection is a primary profit driver for any business. I will tell you why in a minute. First, I want to share a personal story that got me thinking about it this week.
COVID Impacts Connections
The COVID pandemic has been difficult in many ways all around the globe. While containment practices have separated us from each other, the shared difficulties have been unifying. My greatest stressor has been elder care. I know I am not alone. That hardly makes it better, but I do feel some level of solidarity with people all over the world who have had to navigate caring for elderly parents and the loneliness and isolation they are experiencing.
Very Personal Experience
My father is 92 years old. He has been living independently in a progressive care facility in St Petersburg, FL for several years, and living alone since my mother died in 2017. COVID precautions suddenly prevented my sister, who lives in the area, from visiting him in person. Then, all five of us siblings began having difficulty reaching him by phone. When we did, we noticed greater confusion on his part, decline in speech clarity, and increasing anxiety.
My father had a health event a little over a month ago that has involved two different hospital stays and two rehab stints with some pretty serious health issues. He is a fighter and a very positive person, which is critical to his survival. The health issues are a serious backdrop, but I have grieved our inability to communicate with him while he is fighting through it.
During Dad’s first rehab stint, all five siblings attempted to reach him by phone on a regular basis. His cell phone was no longer an option, as he could no longer negotiate it. We would call his room. The phone would ring unanswered and flip back to the receptionist. In order to talk to my dad, the sequence would go something like this: three loops from room back to receptionist. If the receptionist has time, she rings the nurse and advises her that a call is coming through to my dad’s room. The nurse waits in the room for the phone to ring, picks up and hands it to my dad.
Layer in five kids doing that every day, and the process is simply overwhelming. We started debriefing from the one who made it through. Just not the same as hearing your dad’s voice. Don’t get me wrong. I am sure my dad was being served well in what he was there to do – rehabilitate from physical setbacks.
Second rehab stint. I get a call from Alex, who is the primary nurse assigned to dad’s care. Alex says he knows how difficult it is for elderly people in their care to not be able to see or communicate with their families. He wants to do everything in his power to improve my dad’s wellness, including his mental health. He commits to personally orchestrating FB face time sessions with my dad for all five of my siblings – individually.
I schedule my time. Alex is perfectly punctual in initiating the face time. He stands at my father’s side, helping him focus the phone and to speak more clearly, which is part of the rehab. My conversation runs its course. I say goodbye to my dad, then Alex takes the phone and asks if I have any specific questions about dad’s care that he can address. Then, he makes a standing offer – anytime I want to talk to my dad he will make it happen. Just give him a day or two to set it up. He gave me his personal cell phone number. I was emotional as I hung up, releasing weeks of grief from being out of touch with my dad.
Alex personally made the commitment to make it more than service required, and he did it five times over, just for my family. I cannot imagine the overall level of commitment and energy that Alex has had to muster to serve all his patients this way. I am now connected to the facility, Addington Place at College Harbour, in the most personal way.
Client Connection Versus Customer Service
Client connection is an entirely different dimension than customer service. It is what great brands are built upon – client intimacy, anticipating client needs, and meeting them in the most memorable and emotional way possible. Client connection drives pricing power, which drives superior profitability. Client connection is a business expander as well – repeat business and word-of-mouth promotion. Things just get easier with the right intentions and devotion of energy in every single client experience with your business.
Make The Investment
Some may think the bridge from good customer service to lasting client connection is just a bridge too far. It is too expensive. Just can’t make minimum wage people care that much. I have not checked his time card, but my belief is that Alex did not work any extra hours to work in that 10 minutes of face time during his regular shift with my dad. It was something he could do, and he did it. And, it meant the world to me.