Managing the client experience can be a challenge from time-to-time, especially if the client’s expectations are skewed!
And, knowing if the client is feeling apprehensive, confused or upset is always as clear cut as mad cat in the shower. If you’re not careful, you could be reading about a “bad” situation through a published, public, online review later on; after the fact. Why? Because many people today would rather avoid the confrontation with the person or product they’re disappointed with and go straight to the autonomy of writing a review of the experience for everyone else to read. And, some may even go as far as publishing the experience under a false or anonymous persona. So, it’s good to manage that relationship throughout the life cycle and beyond, even if it was a rough one.
But, don’t despair. There are a few things you can do, right now, to strengthen any business relationship and build a stronger, longer business advocacy beyond the transaction. Here are our top three tips!
- Communication — Have it. Period. Silence can be deafening and what seems like a short time to you could seem like an eternity to an anxious client or highly-driven personality. So, make sure you are communicating with your customers on a fairly regular basis and set the expectation of that communication schedule, priority, and resource early on.
Here are some things to think about when setting those communication expectations:
- When will you communicate to the client? Just during emergencies and special circumstances or will you have a regular check in?
- How will you communicate? Will you call or email?
- What are your available hours and how will you handle emergencies after hours?
- What type of communications will you be sending? Marketing and informational emails, progress reports, billing statements, etc?
- What is the average response rate of any communication inquiry made to you?
- What platforms will you monitor for communications from your clients? How often will you monitor them? And, are there any inquiries or requests you will not or cannot respond to, certify, or take action on if it’s received through voicemail, email, or messaging?
- Added Value — For some, this may be actually providing additional perks, gifts, or monetary benefits, but at the end of the day, promising less and delivering more will always make you shine. For example, Back2Basics is not a technology company, and email delivery challenges are not only NOT a forte, it’s not a service we provide or support. However, on occasion we run into a disheartened client running into delivery challenges because of server bounces or security flags. We may not be able to fix the challenge for them, but we take every effort to help them “try” to diagnose what may be happening and then point them to the most logical resource best equipped to help them overcome the challenge. You can take that same principal and apply it to your own business model.
- End on a High Note! — There is a well-established phenomenon called the “recency effect” that can take what was once a stellar relationship and quickly sour it because of the most recent memory recall of an unpleasant situation. On the reverse side of it, you may have had a seemingly harsh relationship all of a sudden become your biggest advocate because you were able to over come challenges during the business life cycle and end on a extremely positive note.
Here are some ideas to help you manage the “end of business life” relationship and salvage the client’s memory recall of their overall experience of working with you or your business so you can End on a High Note:
- Send a “thank you”. Even if the transaction was not perfectly executed, a sign of appreciation will go a long way. And, if you can swing the extra 5 minutes… send a hand-written, personalized note, card or letter.
- Celebrate their business with a public acknowledgement. Everyone likes to be recognized for their contributions; great or small, but not everyone will ask for it or expect it. It’s those unexpected public gestures of appreciation that can go a long way, but feel your client out. If they are EXTREMELY private, don’t like to share feedback, are going through an extremely sensitive and private situation at home or work, have their social media locked down tighter than Fort Knox or, have no social media at all, they may not like you making mention of them in a public written forum like social media or a blog article.
- Host an appreciation event and invite your past clients to relax with you; even if it’s one night a year.
- Send a client appreciation gift or acknowledgment. Even something as small as a $2 coffee credit can go a long way for some clients. And, if you can determine; through previous conversations (remember those frequent and consistent opportunities to touch base…?), you find out something about the client’s favorite extracurricular activities or interests, you can incorporate that into their gift. — Do they have a favorite author? Did they love visiting the wineries along the French countryside? Do they adore kitchen gadgets or exploring new flavors at different ethnic restaurants? Do they own a pet or have young kids in sports or the arts?
- Take that EXTRA step. Just like we eluded to in Step 2 (promise less and deliver more), if the client is facing a challenge that makes their experience less than pleasant; whether it’s in your control or not, the only thing they’ll remember is that YOU were part of that unpleasant experience. So, instead, help them remember you were part of the solution and not the challenge.
Target Corporation is great at creating an end-of-business-life positive moment. They may not always be the least expensive shopping experience, but they are constantly reinventing the overall client experience to overcome any financial challenge a customer may feel in order to compete with more budget-centric companies like a WalMart or Save-On. An expanded “all-inclusive” shopping (home goods, soft lines, grocery, and health & beauty supplies), to more appealing layouts and product displays is just the beginning. They train their employees (associates) to treat the customer like a ‘guest’ visiting a showroom vs. a shopper at another retail in-and-out.
Associates are encouraged to take their time with a guest and help them find the best solutions to their needs and concerns through the use of their technology, resources, and leadership. Is there a stressed-out mom with a full cart of products and a fussy child? The associate is empowered to diffuse the situation by distracting the child while mom gets organized, find someone to help mom carry out the products, or even offer extra treats or samples that may bring a momentary smile to her face during a stressful moment in time.
Is this a mindset you can incorporate into your business model? I bet you can!
Looking for more great tips or guidance?
Maybe you want to consider one of our one-on-one or small group brand management coaching programs. Give us a call!