All companies want repeat business and lifelong clients. We want our clients to be so impressed that they want us to do more. None of us begin working with a client expecting to fail, yet sometimes we don’t measure up to our client’s expectations. This can cause distrust and – at times – animosity between the teams. The account can be in jeopardy, as can your business’s reputation. You never want to reach this point. So to avoid this situation, here are five tips to help ensure client satisfaction… and deliver top results.
- Be honest. For the sales team, selling your company as the best of the best is a daunting and complicated task. Give the client relevant solutions for what they are asking for… and nothing more. You always want to say “yes,” yet it’s equally important to say “no.” Be honest about your company’s capabilities. How about when the client is ready to work with you? Be up front about pricing and (especially) the expected timing for projects to be completed. Going over budget, going back to a client for more money, or extending an already lengthy project timeline can hurt the relationship.
- Get a feel for the client. Some clients don’t need very much. They let a project run at its own pace, offer minimal input, and don’t ask for much on top of what’s already being done. Some clients, however, need hand-holding and make a lot of new requests beyond the scope of the original project. This can depend on the industry of the client. A membership organization for instance may require a lot of additional support for chapters or individual members. Though you can’t know everything you’ll be encountering in a project, if more questions had been asked up front some of that could have been discovered and prepared for… and the quote, timing, and team expectations would likely have been presented or executed differently. You never want to let your client down on the job.
- Thoroughly understand what you are about to take on. Take a comprehensive look at what the client is asking for your company to do. Many projects, such as website refreshes and membership marketing efforts, have multiple steps if they want to be set up and executed correctly. This will take longer and there will likely be bumps along the way that will require troubleshooting. Ask team members who are experts in the types of projects your client is interested in doing… and listen. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. This also entails being up front about what project might be beyond the skill set of your in-house team. You can always offer to work with a vendor. It’s important to recognize this early. This is not to say to never push for growth or to help team members grow their skill set. A company should have a sweet spot, but it should never be satisfied with the status quo. Just know how to pick your battles. You want success.
- Timing is everything. The sales process can take a long time, but once the contract is signed, most clients want to move at warp speed. You already have a lot of projects to manage. How will adding a new one affect workflow and labor? Does something need to be shifted or moved around? Is your client in a tight spot and needed solutions yesterday? Know the answers, prep your team, and manage your client’s expectations regarding timing.
- Communicate! Don’t wait for a client to ask about something; anticipate what the client will want to know. Send reports regularly, offer quick updates via email on how a promotion or project is going. This goes a long way in making your client feel connected to your company’s team. Always be a step ahead in what the client would like to execute next. Be prepared to provide an answer, not “we’ll get back to you.” Be as prompt in your communication as possible, and work on removing bottlenecks within your company so that your client doesn’t have to wait long for an answer.
All of these will help you and your company ensure that you over-deliver instead of over-promise. However, if you misjudge the client’s needs or wants, run into challenges in the shop, the return is lower than projected, or you’re trying something new and it ends up falling flat, you could find yourself in the position of having to explain and work to regain that client’s trust. Sometimes, despite best efforts, things do not go as planned.
If you do not meet your client’s expectations…
Get everyone together. Make a new game plan. Get all the experts in the room with the client. This would look better if you go visit the client. Make sure there is a good facilitator for the conversation and someone taking notes so that details don’t get missed. Everyone needs to be honest and priorities need to be hashed out.
Offer an apology. Not just verbally, but also tangibly in the form of a discount, free item, something! It’s never a good thing to have to do this to appease your client’s discontent but it will show you are willing to try to make up for what has been lacking. It’s also a sign to your internal team that it’s time to step up the game.