Although much of what I have written about here is focused on growing business, that doesn’t mean that customer/client service is somehow less important or relevant. In fact, good customer/client service is essential to growth.
As many people know, word of mouth marketing can be very powerful. Referrals and unsolicited testimonials have perhaps the greatest potential for growing revenue. But they aren’t going to just fall out of the sky.
From Client To Evangelist
Transforming clients into evangelists for your company isn’t something that happens without effort. And it isn’t going to happen if your clients are less-than-pleased with your company’s services. The first step to getting your existing clients to become cheerleaders for your firm is to make sure that your clients are satisfied with what you provide.
An excellent suggestion that I’ve seen from many project managers and professional marketers is to do a post mortem at the conclusion of every project or engagement with each client. This could be a formalized process, but I think it is best handled in a personal conversation. After a project is completed, schedule some time to sit down with your client to discuss the outcome. Simply ask the client what worked, what needs improvement, and in general, how satisfied they are with the results.
This process involves elements that are integral to business success:
- First, this process identifies areas of improvement. Your business and your approach should be living and breathing things that are constantly revised and improved. Who better than an existing client to help you understand what needs to be improved?
- It is important to remember that clients are people, too. Your client engages your services to improve their life or business. Was that objective accomplished? How does the client feel about the outcome of the project? This is not a trivial assessment.
- Focus on the positive. If the project was a success, this post mortem process will serve to highlight that success. If there are some negative outcomes, this is your chance to demonstrate your commitment to improve your relationship with your client. Offer tangible ways in which you can improve the outcome of the next project.
- Finally, this process is all about forward motion. What is the next assignment? How can you help the client in other ways? And here is the clincher: ask your client at the end of a successful project if they would be willing to refer you to other clients or perhaps give you a testimonial. If you don’t ask, it isn’t going to happen.
The post mortem process is one way to ensure client satisfaction and your personal commitment to the needs of your clients. It is a way to emphasize the added value that you bring to the relationship by focusing on positive outcomes and ways to improve. More than anything, it is a statement of solidarity.
If you’re good at what you do, make sure that your clients have the chance to see that. Don’t let the last communication you have with your client on a project be an invoice. Finish the project the way it most likely started: with a friendly conversation discussing your commitment to meeting the client’s needs. Because if you’re not meeting the needs of your clients, someone else will.
- Caution: Unless you have more work than you can handle in your business, I don’t think that relying on word of mouth is enough to sustain any company.
- Don’t even think about charging your client to sit down and do a post mortem. I know there are a lot of people that bill by the hour, or worse, by a fraction of an hour. Charging a client for customer service is a slap in the face.