“Of course not!” You protest. “My customers are why I’m in business. They keep me going.”
Okay, maybe you don’t hate your customers — but when we freelancers provide poor service to our clients, we are behaving just as though we do hate them.
Poor customer service makes our client’s lives harder and may ultimately even lead to the loss of a client. In fact, good customer service is vital if you want to retain clients and grow your business.
Seven Cardinal Customer Service Crimes
Here are seven common cardinal customer service crimes:
- Delayed Response Syndrome. “The early bird gets the worm” is a common saying, and when it comes to customers that saying is often true. If you make a potential customer wait before you get back to them, there is a good chance that he or she will do business with someone else. A good rule of thumb is to get back to any potential client within 24 hours – even if you are on vacation or busy.
- Poor or No Support. If you’ve ever been on the client side of a customer service call, then you probably already know what it is like to receive poor support and you know that it is not fun. Just because you’ve delivered a product or service doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re done. The client may have a question or the materials you delivered may not work as anticipated.
- Curt or Rude Responses. You’re tired. In fact, you’re exhausted. You’ve been working on this client’s project for hours and hours. While I can certainly empathize, exhaustion is no excuse for being curt or rude to a customer. (And I guarantee that the customer will remember your rudeness long after he or she forgets that you put in extra hours.)
- Incomplete Contact Information. When it comes to contacting you, don’t make your client guess how they can reach you. Every piece of communication that comes from you (including bills) should contain your contact information. The client shouldn’t have to work hard to figure out how to find you. Just because the client contacted you once is no guarantee they will contact you again.
- Missed Deadlines. As a freelancer, your word should be as good as gold. If you agree to have a product or service ready by a certain date, then you should do everything in your power to meet that deadline. Your customer likely set that deadline for a reason. A casual attitude towards client deadlines is a quick way for you to lose clients.
- Lack of Communication. Do you have questions about your project? Is the project bigger than you anticipated? Have you had a personal emergency interfere with your work? Let your customer know what is going on. Usually, he or she is more than happy to answer questions and (provided you don’t make a habit of it) willing to be understanding about a crisis.
- Acting as Though You Don’t Care. Even when you find a client’s project dull and uninteresting, don’t let them know how you feel. Nearly every client believes that his or her own work should be the most important and have the highest priority on your schedule. If you can, look for something interesting in every project. (It’s there if you look, believe me.)
When In Doubt…
Put yourself in the customer’s shoes. Ask yourself the following questions:
- How would you like to be treated if the situation were reversed?
- What sort of customer service would you expect to receive?
A Final Word About Customer Service
I think that many freelancers are afraid to offer good customer service to their clients because they’re afraid of being taken advantage of. While it’s true that there are customers out there who will try to take advantage of you, the majority will not abuse your good nature. Most of your clients just want to get their product or service and have it work properly for them.
And if you do find that a particular client demands much more than he or she paid for, you can always refuse to work for that client in the future or negotiate a higher price.
Have Your Say!
Have you ever experienced poor customer service? How did it make you feel?
What customer service techniques have you implemented as a freelancer?