With every interaction that your business has with a customer, you’re either reminding them why they hired you, or making them seriously question it. A bit heavy I know, but it’s true. When they call your office and your assistant picks up and is rude, clearly distracted, and gives one word answers, that’s a count towards questioning their reasoning. When they email you a question and your response is informative, friendly, and prompt, that’s a count towards solidifying their reasoning to work with you.
Clients Will Forgive Bad Service
Now of course it’s not always a life or death matter of your client waiting to love you or hate you. Eventually customers do settle down into their comfortable and trusting relationship with you. And the farther in you are to a great relationship, the customer will become more and more forgiving. They’ll be more and more willing to glaze over your mistakes. But, as in all relationships, we can decide to go our separate ways if it just becomes too much.
One of my absolute favorite hotels in the world is the Four Seasons. I’ve been able to visit only a couple in my life as it costs a fortune, but every time I go the service is amazing – personal, not a hint of pretension, and extremely attentive without being intrusive. When a Four Seasons hotel opened up in St. Louis, I was stoked. I could finally luxuriate in their service, in my home town!
So, I started to go for my annual family birthday dinner, visit their rooftop bar with friends, etc. But, over the years, I noticed that each interaction slowly got more and more “usual,” more mediocre, more typical of any other business. So, I stopped going. Why spend $25 a person to get hair in my soup (but was still charged for even though I told them about it), small dishes that leave you hungry and thinking “meh”, and service that you can get at Applebee’s. At the end, I returned their emailed customer satisfaction survey, telling them how my experience had really gone down hill over the years. The response was “I’m sorry to hear that. I hope you’ll come back again and let us improve.” – No action. Just words. Why would I go back? You haven’t given me a reason to. And clearly you’re not improving. You’re going down hill.
Don’t Push a Client to Their Breaking Point
Customers are loyal, but to a point. Like we all are. Most of us are extremely loyal in our relationships, until we’re mistreated. So, when we first meet with our customers, it’s important to not lull them into a false sense of security. Treating them like royalty with fancy treats, quickly replying to emails, and always being on time for those initial meetings sounds like a great idea at first. But then once you’re in the middle of the job, you start to slack a little. The checks have been cashed, the chaos of other business starts to take over, and you just don’t have it in you to keep up the same amount of client care. That’s understandable. And clients will let you slip a few times. But be careful to not let it happen more than that.
It’s actually better to be consistent, than to always wow a customer. If you’re always able to wow your customers, then by all means, please do! But if you can’t, getting someone’s hopes up at the beginning only to feel later like they’ve been fooled doesn’t help. You or the client. Instead, adopt a sustainable level of service. One that you can maintain no matter what happens. Because every time you interact with that customer and they’re reassured that they made the right choice with you, it makes them that much more likely to tell a friend, and their friend’s friend, and their friend’s friend’s friend. But, the same thing goes when they’re unhappy with their interaction. Actually even more so. The statistics are varied, but the conclusion of them all is that people are far more likely to share a bad experience, than a good one.
Remind Your Client Why They Hired You
Bad experiences with a business we once loved make us feel taken advantage of. We think, “you once treated us so well, what happened? You’re charging the same price, or maybe even more, but I don’t receive the same service or product quality? How is that fair?” Customers aren’t allowed to randomly decide when they want to pay less. So why should a business be able to give less? So, make sure that your interactions are consistently good. Although spectacular would be the ideal, consistently good is usually enough to keep your customers pretty happy. But, it has to be done every time. Remind your client, over and over, and over again, why they’re a genius for hiring you. Not why they’re an idiot.