In these days of automated phone answering, online bill payments and support, and countless other technology-based, personality-disconnected offerings, quality customer service can often be hard to find. I’ve written previously about the opportunities our society can provide for freelancers. In this post we will focus on the elements of killer customer service freelancers can use to grow their business and keep clients coming back for more as well as recommending them to others.
My wife is in the process of getting her cosmetology license. Every day she has people sit in her chair and pay to have her cut, color or style their hair. As her schooling has progressed she has begun to build a significant number of repeat clients who faithfully request her services when making their appointments. In a recent discussion we were examining some of the main reasons we could identify as motivation for the return customers, and not surprisingly they all boiled down to killer customer service. Most of these reasons are transferrable principles that can be applied to any freelance business situation.
Show Personal Interest in Your Clients Early
From the moment my wife meets her next guest, she expresses an interest in them personally. Going beyond the usual “Hello” and “How are you” and asking more engaging and personal questions to encourage the client to share about themselves will not only communicate that you care about them beyond what they are going to pay you, but can also give you valuable insight into their personality, life situations and other things about them that could impact the services you provide. Eliminate the thought that this is taking “extra” time and just include it as part of your process.
Listen to and Embrace the Client’s Vision
Regardless of whether or not you believe the client is always right, it is important to have a clear understanding of what they want. Have you ever gone to get your hair cut and the stylist gave you something different than what you asked for? Or they asked you what you wanted, then proceeded to tell you that your desired cut wouldn’t look right and suggested something entirely different?
Yes, typically freelancers are hired because of their experience and expertise in their field. Does that mean ignore the client’s request and give them what you want or think is best? Most often this will not result in a good experience for the client, and quite possibly could end up either driving them away before the project ever starts or inspiring negative feedback and word of mouth when it is completed.
Take time in the beginning and during the project to ask and listen to what your client wants. Don’t refrain from offering your expertise and advice, but be sure to listen and respond to your client’s desires and vision.
Build Relationships That Are Also Friendships
Throughout the appointment my wife will keep the conversation going with a myriad of topics, primarily allowing the client to lead and direct the conversation and avoiding focusing on her own life situations. Finding common ground with what is going on in the client’s life or their interests always eases their mind and helps them feel important and valued.
Try starting and nurturing a relationship with your clients that focuses on them while simultaneously sharing some of your own commonalities to enable them to get to know you personally. Most people like to share about themselves, and you can never go wrong by encouraging them to do so and showing a genuine interest in who they are and what they may be going through. A killer freelancer-client relationship will be strengthened by the personal involvement that breeds trust, confidence and compassion.
Know and Believe in Your Upsells
In the salon industry there is a significant focus on selling product to every customer that purchases a service. This is where a good portion of the industry’s profit is made, and a stylist must therefore be a good salesperson on top of being skilled in their craft. However, as with any successful merchant, the most sales are made when the salesperson truly believes that what they are offering will benefit the customer. Have you ever had someone try to sell you something that you knew they would never actually buy for themselves? It rings false, and typically the sale is not made.
Whatever your business, it is important to know the various additional benefits you can suggest to your clients, not solely for the extra income, but because you know it is in their best interest. Everyone wins when your client listens to your advice and gets the best end result, even if it costs them something extra. Be sure to keep current with the best offerings in your niche and the types of projects that will benefit from them the most.
Create a Memorable Experience
One of the main expectations my wife’s customers have is to walk away from their time with her having had an experience, not just a haircut. From personal interaction, to the various scented shampoos and conditioners, to the background music, to the head massage, to the final result–all of the senses are engaged in an overwhelming experience that they depart from with a strong desire to return to again.
What are some things you can begin doing that would make your clients appreciate and remember the experience of working with you? The smallest touches can make a huge difference. Some of the things I have done for my graphic and web design clients include status updates via a friendly email, Skype chats and conversations to review or discuss the project, website launch celebrations, thank you cards in the mail and more.
Of course, your own type of business and personal style will dictate the things you might do to go that extra mile for your clients, but why not start now? Providing an experience for your clients that they remember fondly will always encourage them to tell others about you as well as return for more whenever they need to use your particular services again.
Share Your Thoughts
What are some different or unique ways you provide killer customer service for your clients? Have you ever related your clients’ experience with you to a visit to the salon? How about another similar avenue where customer relations are required? Be sure to share your thoughts, experiences and suggestions in the comments below.
Image by marielliott