My tough love approach (heavy on the love) focuses on bringing order to chaos, and creating solid (and straightforward) strategic plans. I take surveys for fun, never met a process I didn’t like, and am a big believer in personal growth as a keystone to business growth.
Bringing new, high-paying clients onboard feels fantastic, but what’s even better is when an existing client finds them for you, and sends them right to your door. These clients are your unofficial advocates. They want to help both you and their contacts, so they’re actively promoting you in private meetings, and casual conversations whenever their connections are looking for recommendations. They also spend time thinking of other people you may want to call, and pass you their information, promising to vouch for you if asked.
As you might imagine, advocates like these can transform your business, and give you the best possible form of advertising – word of mouth! Few companies can ever truly lay claim to this, so if you’ve got it, you cherish it.
We bet you’re asking: ‘So, how do I find these clients, and turn them into advocates?!’
Though generating this type of business might seem like magic, there are actually some concrete actions you can take that transform clients to advocates on a fairly reliable basis. Here are the three easy steps to help your clients make the jump to becoming a regular and enthusiastic promoter of your brand.
Customer service is a broad topic, but we’ll assume you have the basics covered. When most business owners consider how they can take their customer service up a notch, they’ll focus on a few of the areas that tend to slip over time, like making it easy for your clients to interact with you by ensuring your contact information is easily accessible. You’d be surprised how many times the information people need to get in touch has disappeared from a website during an update, or can’t be found in an email signature!
You’ll also want to ensure you’re responding to customer queries quickly. When it comes to taking care of clients, bad habits can sometimes creep in. Keep them in check by answering the phone whenever you can and always replying to emails and voicemail messages within 24 hours. If you can’t respond within that time frame, send the customer a note explaining that you’ll get back to them, and commit to a specific date and time.
Another customer service principle is to over-deliver on your commitments whenever possible. Whether it’s delivering work ahead of schedule or including more than originally promised, going above and beyond will often be noticed. Being able to anticipate your clients’ needs or questions, and proactively addressing potential issues ahead of when they arise are two more valuable customer service skills.
Building a better relationship with your client through active communication is another important part of offering exceptional customer service. You’re both on the same team, so genuinely invest in their trials and successes by always using active listening techniques.
While employing these suggestions will put you on the right rack to providing top notch customer service, improving that rating to ‘stellar customer service’ is all about properly aligning your mindset.
All too often, customer service suffers because the service provider walks into the situation with the wrong mindset. We get preoccupied with determining who is right when something goes wrong, or we feel confused or upset when a customer seems to be acting irrationally or not as we expected. This causes us to become defensive, and analyze the motives behind every interaction, when we should be reminding ourselves that everyone wants to be happy, and that we are all trying our best at all times.
Most people don’t make a conscious effort to be difficult or unreasonable; they are simply acting based on their past experiences, with the tools they have, to whatever resolve their current situation in a way that benefits them the most. Keep this in mind and it will be much easier to see things from your clients’ points of view when dealing with difficult situations. People will always remember difficulties they’ve had with you, so being in the right frame of mind to resolve them and give their story a happy ending is what will transform them from a client to an advocate.
It’s time to get curious about your customer service process from your client’s point of view! Search for barriers to your customer’s happiness and do everything you can to eliminate them. To do this, you have to take the time to see your entire brand through the eyes of a client. From their first encounter with your sales material to your website design to that first discovery call, filling out contracts and defining project scope, what are the pain points? Break down every step of your process, do an in-depth analysis, and consider how you can make the next step simple, obvious and hassle-free.
For example, if you sell clothes online, inevitably, customers will need to exchange items. In this case, you’d ensure the rules and process for returns is generous, readily accessible, easily read and understood…and don’t forget to throw in free shipping.
In your role as a Virtual Assistant, you’ll soon discover your clients will face challenges communicating online, and will worry that you’ll disappear on them. Make sure they have all your contact info so they can choose their favourite communication method. This makes it easier for them to express their ideas and takes the stress away from first searching for your info before they reach out to you.
Include an emergency phone phone number and clearly state your hours of work in your welcome package or email so your clients don’t panic if you’re not on Skype after a certain time. Ensure you schedule regular meetings with them to stay on top of what’s happening day-to-day and to give them a sense that you’re available if required.
Customizing your communications to your client’s preferences is another easy way to please them. For instance, if a client only answers one or two of the questions you send via email and seems to ignore the rest, remind yourself that they are just trying their best and think about how you may resolve the issue. Email just isn’t the best medium for a lot of people, and the solution might be to call them and ask your questions over the phone. Following your conversation, simply recap it in an email so you both have a record of the discussion.
Sometimes a client needs you to ask them to become an advocate for your business, because doing it doesn’t come naturally. If you’ve built a good rapport with your client, don’t be afraid to ask them for what you need. This could include a testimonial, referral, for them to share one of your recent posts on Facebook, or facilitating an introduction on LinkedIn.
Happy customers want to help you succeed, and they love telling people about you for a few reasons:
They look forward to your providing a great experience to their friends
They like being able to brag that they were the ones who discovered you
The more customers they can help you find, the healthier your business will be and the longer you’ll be around to serve them
Don’t forget to thank your clients for helping you out, especially when they provide a referral. Sending a note or making a quick call specifically to say, ‘thank you’ can make a world of difference and may act as as a meaningful motivator for people to want to assist you again in the future. You can even send them a small token of your appreciation, like a $10 gift card to their favourite coffee house. The gift doesn’t have to be of large monetary value, but the more personalized it is, the better.
The critical rule to remember is that clients do not become advocates by accident. They evolve into them because someone took the effort to make sure they felt cared for. Follow these steps and you’ll be able to reap the benefits of all that word of mouth business.
Tell us your tips for transforming clients into advocates in the comments below!
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