What are you doing to create advocates out of your clients? What are you doing to make them sing your praises? Here’s a hint, if you’re only delivering what you promised, you’re not doing enough. The current state of the customer service industry (if you run your own business, you’re a part of it) doesn’t allow us to sit idle and wait for the clients. It’s not enough to book just anyone who comes along. It’s not enough to deliver the goods and services without letting your client know what the next step should be. There’s a way to create advocates out of your clients by building genuine relationships & focusing on managing then going beyond their expectations.
As independent business owners, we are often forced to wear multiple hats at once. Eventually, tasks can be outsourced, or employees will help lessen your load, but one fact still remains: no matter how big or how small your business, your clients must come first, and always feel like they’re the only ones. Sit down with a pen & paper, or a spreadsheet, go through your workflow from start to finish. Can you even do this? **One tip: If there’s something you’re doing more than once … try to automate this: packaging, email templates, gift packs, invoicing, editing, shipping, etc.)** Do you have an ideal workflow that you’ve wanted to put in place, but haven’t? You need to know exactly what happens from that initial contact from a potential client, until after the product is delivered. Sure, each client or order can be a little different, but if you follow the same workflow, you’ll be more efficient, you’ll be faster, which will give you more time to focus on those individual client needs.
A contract (or at least any written agreement) is a great way to manage expectations. It will include what you’re supplying for how much money … who is involved, and how the service or product can be used. Everything should be discussed up front. A timeline should be in place, payment plans, etc. If you’re running an online fulfillment shop, the customer should know exactly what they’re ordering, when it will arrive and how it will get there. When you tell the client up front how easy it is to work with you, it clears up confusion and makes them feel as though they’re in wonderful hands.
Go Above Their Expectations
If your client expects the service to take a certain amount of time to complete … get it to them sooner. If they send you a referral … send them a gift. You loved working with them … send them a gift card to a place you know they love, or better yet, a coupon or gift card for your services (they can come back, or send a friend). All of these things will exceed your client’s expectations, and you’re creating advocates out of them. When their friends ask about you, they’ll talk about your wonderful work, but they’ll also explain why you’re the best at what you do. The product/service almost comes secondary … YOU are the one they want. There is no one else who will promise and over-deliver like you have.
Keep It Real
Don’t make yourself out to be something you’re not. Put your heart & soul on your sleeve while developing your brand and brand identity. Your values should be at the forefront, and by creating your identity this way, you’ll be attracting others who share the same values. Better yet, they’ll probably share some of the same interests & hobbies. If a potential client doesn’t seem like the right fit, go with your gut … then, be honest with them. Being true to yourself and your brand will help you to stand out from your competition, and make each job feel so much more rewarding. When you’re connecting with your clients, it won’t feel much like work at all. One client who shares your same values and appreciates your work will be an advocate … that one client will turn into two, and before you know it, your entire client base is a living, breathing, referring representation of your brand. They are marketing for you.
Even though you found your dream client, things can go wrong. Timelines can be derailed … there can be a lapse in communication. The client isn’t wrong and it’s not their fault. Remember, it’s your job to manage the project and their expectations. Often, it’s a matter of telling the client about the problem before they even notice, then sending them a little thank you for reassurance. It’s all about communication. They’ll understand, just be honest and tell them how you plan to fix it.
After you’ve started to build a client base … don’t forget what values got you there. Stay true to your style & yourself, but don’t forget that learning is important. Once people have invested in you, it’s worth considering investing more in yourself. Take a class/workshop that will help you connect more with your client, upgrade your identity pieces, or take time to start the process from the beginning to be sure your brand is still in line with where you hoped it to be.
We are currently offering one-on-one brand reviews and consultations. If you’re considering rebranding, let’s talk first. Maybe you just need a little help with strategy, or you’re not sure about how to best represent your brand visually. We can talk on the phone, Skype or in-person to give you some perspective. Just send me a hello, and we can talk about the details.
We’re currently booking brand identity clients for 2012. Though, we don’t accept every client that comes our way: we love working with creatives who are passionate about what they do. We love clients who are crazy about design and understand that branding is more than a fancy logo. If that’s you, let’s talk!