Life-saving customer service tips for freelance designers

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Even with the best of intentions, good customer service can slip down the freelancer’s priority list.

Time is often the culprit and when combined with a little procrastination and a healthy measure of freelancing fear, we can soon land with a full inbox.

Some of the most important lessons I’ve learned about running my web development business successfully have come from my own experiences as a customer.

I recently moved house and I wanted to get my new place professionally cleaned before I moved in. I called quite a few local companies but ended up cleaning the place myself. My experiences weren’t great and made me think seriously about my own customer service.

My top tips (now hanging next to the phone in my office)…

Be there

I worked my way through the phone book. If there was no quick answer, I hung up and moved on to the next supplier. If possible, supply a landline as well as a mobile number, because it shows you have a permanent base, which can help to garner trust among clients.

No black holes

One receptionist told me the service I was looking for would require a specialist quote (even though one-off cleans were specified in their ad) and that I would be called back by her manager.

I never received the call.

Advertise what you sell – no more and no less

Another company didn’t cover our area, even though they said they did.

It’s important to be clear and honest about the services you offer and know your boundaries.

Don’t try and get business you can’t handle, whether it be location, timescales, scope or expertise – even if you are just trying to cast the net as wide as possible, the customer won’t thank you for wasting their time.

It’s potential business… don’t play hard to get!

No one I spoke to sounded remotely happy that I had called!

When I hear from a new customer, there is always lots to think about: how will I plan the development of their site? What features might they need? What’s their brand? What are their expectations?

It’s important to show enthusiasm as a part of building a business relationship.

Even if it’s not the most exciting project, the paying client deserves to know that they have the benefit of your professional attention and efforts. While you may not want to seem too eager, in my experience, clients are far more responsive when communication is dynamic and upbeat.

If you take a week to reply to each phone call or email, it’s hard to keep enthusiasm and momentum going.

Be upfront and confident with pricing

When I phoned every cleaner within a 10-mile radius, I wanted to know two things: could they do it and how much would it cost?

I know that design is a different industry but, offensive it as may be to a designer’s sensibilities, cost is still likely to be a very important consideration for your customer.

I found that many companies were cagey about pricing.

In many cases, once I had battled through to an actual price, it wasn’t as high as the salesperson’s hesitancy had implied. Rather than being a good thing, I wondered if she thought her prices weren’t justifiable. If you aren’t being greedy, you shouldn’t need to hide behind vagaries.

Keep in touch

It sounds so obvious, but when speaking to new customers on the phone, spend time taking down phone numbers and email addresses carefully so that you can be proactive about getting back in touch if necessary.

Ascertaining how they got your details can help you to find out which kinds of advertising and promotion are working best for you. If you have an ad that’s offering out-of-date services or pricing, it’s important to know that too.

Crucially, we are all consumers as well as providers of products and services. If we feel entitled to gold standard customer service, we also ought to be providing it.

Your turn to talk…

Now it’s your turn to talk. How do you guarantee a good customer experience for your clients? What other tips would you add to the list? Leave a comment on this post and let us know.

 

About Victoria Brown

a freelance web developer based in Cambridge, UK. As an English grad, she specialises in quality content as well as quality code. When not developing websites, she loves going for long walks with her family and dog, Monty. You can see her portfolio at rebelphoenix.com

Comments

  1. Victoria,

    Great post!

    I always try to use the Golden Rule as a standard: “treat others as you want to be treated.” My favorites are about upfront pricing and enthusiasm, but all of these tips are vital to good client relationships!

    Someone once told me to smile when talking on the phone because the other person can hear it in your voice. Your inflection when you first answer the phone can make the positive “How may I help?” sound like the negative “What do you need from me?”

    Thanks!

    • Good point, April! I think it is also easy to tell whether you have someone’s full attention on the phone – there is a lot more “body language” to a call than we realise!

  2. Some very good points you raise Victoria.

    I often talk to people from various industries about how to make sales and grow a business and the successful sales people all have the same number one rule; good customer service. It goes a long way in any industry.

  3. Great article! Thanks for the tips.

  4. Victoria, thank you for sharing some valuable insights here on the importance of quality customer service. It is very true that no matter the industry the value of customer service is always of great relevance. We are all customers in our own right and of course we always want to have great customer service experiences. To this point, we should be willing and able to provide the same level of service to our clients that we would expect to receive when we are the customer or client.

  5. I agree! Being accessible and enthusiastic about making contact with a customers shows that you are appreciative that they chose your company to provide them with a service from possibly thousands of other competitors offering the very same thing and maybe even for less. It is a great idea to go outside of your regular hours to be available for chat because potential customers live in other time zones and need just as much customer service and contact from your company as others closer to where your company is based. If I am up late and working all night, I keep my chats hooked up and get quite a few visitors in the early hours. Ex: I had a nice consultation with a visitor from India at 4:24 AM. Right afterwards I spoke briefly with a visitor from Sweden who said they will get back to me after some checking around. Making actual contact with them outside of my regularly posted hours helps your clients with knowing they can usually reach you outside of business hours and you don’t mind helping them with even the most mundane questions. Customer service isn’t everyone’s forte nor does all freelancers wish to interact verbally with consumers. It is vital that you do so there are ways to help you get through the process which make it an easier and more efficient process for you as well as makes you come off as a professional to potential clients.
    1. Make a list of questions in advance based on categories for all of your different services and have them ready so you can get all of the important information that you need from the initial contact.
    2. Smile when you are speaking. You should be happy inside any way that you have a client that will soon be adding income to your possibly barely-there bank account. Even if you have more money than you can handle. What if all of a sudden your site traffic was to stop. What if another competitor has manage to evaluate your weakness with your customer support system and used it to capitalize and get all of your potential clients and possibly a few current ones.They may be already frustrated with your lack of desire to make customer service your priority. Sure it is great to be just an awesome designer but being in tune and showing genuine care and investment in ALL site visitors requests for services or information will surely help you stand out amongst your competition.
    3. Follow-up. Who likes when someone tells you they are going to do something but leaves you alone to figure out if it has been done and waiting for a follow-up and confirmation email or phone call. It only takes a few moment to shoot someone an email or make a quick call just to say, “XYZ project is done! Please don’t hesitate to contact me with any further questions or concerns”. A little more elaboration will be fantastic and goes above and beyond what’s expected from them. In the past when I have been a customer service rep for various industries, I have had customers call that only want to speak with me and if I am unavailable they leave a message for me to call them back or say they will return the call and try to reach me again later. I feel very proud that a customer thinks that my customer service is so awesome and makes them feel so comfortable that I am their only choice.

    Tip: Hire a friend, teen, or relative looking to earn a few dollars or services for being available as an agent on your chat system to help you with calls or be available when you are not. Train them with the basics and give them the same forms to collect information that you use. Send all necessary tools, forms, manuals, in electronic format to them so it’s easily accessible and they can print what they want at their own costs.
    I think it’s also important not to be over-bearing. Let them know you are available or setup automatic triggers so that no customer is ever left without a way to chat with you or leave a message. My favorite provider thus far is Zopim- http://bit.ly/GByWfY. Their chat is awesome and you can set up those automatic triggers with your own custom message to greet your visitors. You can set up messages for new visitors and a different greeting for returning visitors. Yes! Zopim tracks your visitors, their ip addresses, what page they are, the browser or system they are using, their location, and even allows you to name your visitor and add details so that it automatically pop-ups on your end when they return to your website. Save conversations and so much more. I absolutely adore Zopim and the whistle that I set up that goes off every time someone comes to either of my websites that I have the chat widget set up on. What’s great about that is, the conversation follows your site visitor when they go to another one of your websites or blogs where the widget is installed. How cool is that!

    Was that too long? I get excited about certain subject :)

    Frugal Diva Designz/Frugal Diva Templates
    http://www.frugaldivatemplates.com
    http://www.frugaldivadesignz.com – Currently being re-designed

  6. Thanks for highlighting the need for good customer service.
    When there are lot of projects in queue, it becomes increasing difficult to respond on time and provide that premium touch to each customer.
    I was wondering if fellow designers have any tips and tricks or strategies to ensure better customer satisfaction given the time constraints?

  7. Loved this post Victoria! We found that being upfront with our fees gave potential customers a sense of assurance and it really helped in the on-the-spot decision making matters. Honesty goes a long way!

  8. Wow i love this i’m going to re-post it so my fellow designers can take note. I’m a musician that sometimes experiences what designers should not do to us, the client.

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  1. [...] Life-saving customer service tips for freelance designers | Graphic …By Victoria BrownLife-saving customer service tips for freelance designers. Posted March 19th, 2012 by Victoria Brown & filed under Client Advice. customer-service-freelancer-graphic-design-blender. Even with the best of intentions, good customer service can …Graphic Design Blender [...]

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