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)…
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.