Bringing in new customers is just one part of a robust business. It’s both easier and cheaper to sell to users who have already bought from you before; they know you, they trust you, and they have experience with you. The caveat, of course, is that you have to keep them happy. Dissatisfied customers will laugh at your attempts to sell to them again, and you’ll be wasting your time and energy. How can you keep your clients happy?
1. Try to always say yes.
Clients don’t like being told no, and they like even less when they’re told their ideas are stupid and out of date. Try to accommodate them the best you can, while working to stay within modern boundaries.
2. Document everything.
You might not always have a client looking over your shoulder asking questions, but you should always be prepared to answer any questions they might have, complete with documentation and rationale.
3. Bring up issues proactively.
Don’t wait for the client to wonder where their project is to explain you ran into an issue; bring up the issues as soon as possible, explain the options, get feedback if necessary and make sure to over-estimate the scale. That way, when it takes less time and money to solve, your clients will be doubly pleased.
4. Don’t be late.
If you’re ever going to be late, try to tell the client as early as possible. Yes, issues aren’t typically scheduled, but it’s a good idea to keep your clients as informed as possible.
5. Adapt to changing times.
Client businesses tend to stick with what works, even if the definition of “what works” has changed. That’s how you get people buying links and spamming keywords even today; it worked in the past. Keep your services up to date, and make sure your clients know why.
6. Rank your clients.
Typically, you can file your clients away into three categories. You have your high value clients, those who will earn you massive profits, who are exceptionally easy to please, and who provide recurring business regularly. You have your mid-range clients, who may be difficult to please or who may be bordering the “too low profit to bother with” line. Then you have the low-priority clients, those who aren’t worth the time and effort to deal with.
7. Know when to drop your low priority clients.
If you have a poor client eating up a lot of your time and keeping you from working with a high priority client, it’s time to sever the business relationship. At the very least, put them on the back burner and let them figure it out later.
8. Schedule email responses.
You should always be available to contact… by phone. If a client wants to contact you immediately, they should use a high priority line of communication. Don’t get in the habit of responding to email at the drop of a hat, or you’ll end up monitoring your inbox 24/7.
9. Never work for free.
This includes spending too much time going “above and beyond” just to please a client. If you don’t value your time, neither will your clients. They will then begin to believe they aren’t getting anything of significant value – if it was valuable you would charge more – and will become harder and harder to please.
10. Fire stressful clients.
Drop clients that abuse you, harass you or get angry at the drop of a hat. Sure, you might lose out on a client who would be paying you for your services, but it leads to a more stress-free life. When you’re stressed, you end up suffering, and it shows in your communications with other clients. It becomes harder to please all of them, and you become more prone to mistakes.
Deliver more than the client pays for, but only by a little. Giving 110% is often used as a guideline for the basics, and it’s a good idea. The only time this is a problem is when you end up using 110% as the baseline, and end up giving 150% or 200%. Give a little extra, but don’t spoil your clients. Keep the extra special.
12. Avoid open-ended offers.
Avoid the stereotypical open-ended offer. You know the one; “let me know if there’s anything else I can do.” It’s too open-ended, too bland and leaves both you and your client open to disappointment. Instead, approach the client with possible additional ideas. They’ll see you did more work, but they’re free to turn down the extras if they just don’t fit.
13. Try to maintain quality customer service.
In many ways, the concept of “the customer is always right” has led to a very abusive consumer relationship in corporate America. Even so, by pleasing your customers, you show them that you’re willing to solve problems.
14. Watch your competition.
Monitor the kind of customer service your competitors offer and strive to do them one better. It doesn’t really matter how you one-up them, just so long as you do. Make yourself the best around in customer service, and your reputation will bring in new customers.
15. Take responsibility.
Even if it’s a client mistake, if it’s something you can take responsibility for in a way that isn’t ultimately detrimental to your business, go ahead and do it.
16. Vulnerability is humanizing.
Admit ignorance, and express your intent to address any issue. If a client asks a legitimately tough question and you don’t have a ready answer available, tell them you’ll get back to them. Just make sure you actually do.
17. Deliver on time, as promised.
Deadlines are deadlines, and you need to meet them. If you promise delivery on Tuesday, don’t deliver it on Thursday. Don’t even deliver it on Monday. You can always offer rush delivery as an additional service, and then cut clients a discount to make them feel special for getting it.
18. Thank your clients.
A simple thank you note goes a long way towards making your clients feel more appreciated than they do in the majority of the business relationships they have.
19. Keep customers updated with project progress.
Depending on the time scale of the project, an occasional notice can help the client keep aware of what you’re doing for them, and how it’s coming along, particularly when there are no issues.
20. Be extra social.
If you see a client in the wild, take a moment to chat. Send particularly top-tier clients cards or even small gifts for holidays. Keep special occasions in mind.
21. Follow up.
Follow up on clients you haven’t heard from in a while. You never know, maybe they’re in the market for something you offer and just needed to be reminded you exist.
22. Ask real questions.
Get to know your clients, so you can think about their needs from their perspectives. It gives you insight into ways you can keep them satisfied, potentially before they knew they had a need.
23. Maintain a list of recommended partner businesses.
If a client has an issue that you can’t solve, try to have someone you can recommend who can solve it. You might even go so far as to set up a meeting; even if the meeting would happen regardless, it makes them feel like you’re getting them exclusive access.
24. Avoid putting words in their mouths.
It’s one thing to anticipate needs; it’s another to implement solutions they would then have to pay for. It’s better to suggest a solution and implement it if they agree.
25. Welcome feedback.
Allow your best, most intelligent clients an opportunity for criticism and suggestions. Even if you don’t necessarily implement their suggestions, you give them the chance to feel a part of the process.
26. Become a brand advocate.
This ties into tip number 23: if a client provides a service that another client could benefit from, give them that referral.
27. Show off.
Be willing to show past work, and require that you be able to show off your current work. This shows you mean business, it keeps you out of the shady requests and it gives you concrete examples of your work.
28. Keep records.
Verbal contracts, particularly contracts involving fees and work agreements, might as well not exist. Anything concrete needs to be in writing. Emphasize that this is for client protection; they have recourse in case the worst happens.
29. Show loyalty.
If you’re working with one business and their biggest rival comes to you for the same work, consider declining. You don’t have to, but if it would benefit your relationship, it might be worth doing.
30. Be willing to break these rules.
Always be flexible. Know what to do and when to do it, or more importantly, when not to.
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