Have you noticed how much fun you have working with some of your clients while others simply drive you crazy? While you can’t afford to lose any clients in today’s economy, it is still a challenge to be at your very best behavior 24/7. And yet, good customer service is crucial to the growth of your business.
Still, you can figure out who is a good client and a “bad” client, people who you’d rather not work with. It’s all about attracting the right clients. It’s difficult enough to find customers these days, and we want to hang onto them for as long as possible. Sometimes this works out quite well, especially if we work with someone who genuinely like and appreciate. Other times we find ourselves wondering if we can ever make a particular customer happy. If this is an issue that has come up for you, I recommend that you establish a customer service policy.
As you go into business or take your business to the next level, one of the first things to examine is customer experience. You need to think through what service or product you are offering, what is included with a purchase, maybe a guarantee of some kind, and your terms of delivery. What happens if a delay occurs, an unforeseen act of God, or someone simply forgot or made a mistake? Would you have a back-up plan so that you could make your deadline?
Customer service also means establishing financial terms. Are you asking for an advance, when are you getting paid and what payment methods do you accept? Are there penalties for late payments and rewards for early payments? It is very important that you write down your way—your policy—of doing business. Work with it until you feel comfortable with what you are offering.
Managing expectations is vital for client relations. Let me give you an example. A few weeks ago, one of my coaching clients asked how I was tracking her progress. At first I was annoyed and sensed she might be testing me. But then I realized that this client was offering me an opportunity to grow as a coach and the result was a spreadsheet that tracks our accomplishments. That was easy! Things like this make clients happier because they know what to expect from you and they know you listen to them. Both parties know what is going to happen—and when. That makes for excellent client relationships and happy customers. This is amusing: 12 Breeds of Clients and How to Work With Them. http://goo.gl/zJDr
Once you manage expectations, it’s only a few steps from asking your happy clients for referrals. Don’t be afraid to be direct. “Do you know of anyone who can benefit from what I am offering you?” People in the same industry, even if they work at different companies, often socialize together. If they say no to your request, you are no worse off than before. But if they say yes—imagine!
For chronically difficult clients who are never pleased, give yourself a reality check. You are either getting properly compensated for the extra time and trouble, or you are not. Consider whether:
* The client is effectively costing me more in time than I make in money.
* If I were to invest the time I spend dealing with this client, I could find network to find new clients and build more relationships.
* The aggravation this client is causing me is so toxic that I am better off declining their next request.
* The money I make with this client offsets the agony I have to endure.