Throughout our day, we’re all judging whether or not we can judge someone. We put in place little ways to try and ensure trust. To make sure we’re not lying to each other. Or that if you are lying, there’s some way for us to get back to you. You want me to take this tiny piece of paper that literally just has words written on it, and I have to trust you that it will actually get me some money? Well, I need you to write down your phone number and maybe your driver’s license information on it first. You want in this building? You need to show me a badge to prove that you actually need to be here. This is your health insurance card? Let me see your driver’s license to make sure that it’s really yours.
Clients Don’t Have a Way to Ensure They Can Trust You
But if you notice, those are all ways for a business to be able to trust the consumer. Those are practices that a business has put into place to make sure that a customer doesn’t take advantage of them. But what about the customer? What do they do to ensure that a business is trustworthy? They google, they ask around, they read reviews if they can find them. But sometimes those options aren’t well, options. And even when they sign on with you, they sign a contract, written by you. So what do they do to decide if they can trust you? Well, they read your behavior.
When a client is first calling you up, they’re talking with you to see if you sound trustworthy. They search your site to see if you what you write sounds trustworthy. They meet with you to see if you look trustworthy. They’re doing as many things as possible to make sure that you’re trustworthy. That you won’t ask for a deposit, then run. Or that you won’t start the work, but not finish. Or that you won’t show them high quality items, and have them pay for them, but actually order low quality items, and keep the difference. There’s a lot of ways things can go wrong for the client, and other than the contract, they don’t have much in place to ensure you won’t take advantage of them. Or just treat them poorly. They just have to make a judgement, and then trust you.
Honor Every Tiny Commitment, for a Big Impact
So, how do you get clients to trust you? To open up about their budget? To share their concerns about working with a designer? Their concerns about the project in general? By simply, honoring your commitments. Over and over and over again.
Although it may seem small, sending emails when you say you will, calling back with a solution when you promised to, never cancelling a meeting or changing the time, is how you honor your commitments. The actions are small, but they’re hugely meaningful to a client. Because over and over you’re telling them two things. One, you’re important to me. And, two, you can trust me to do what I said.
And that’s what clients want and need more than anything from a business, to know that they’re important to the business, and that the business will do whatever they promised to do. So many empty promises are made by businesses. You’ll get a free gift if you buy today. Sorry, we ran out of our free gifts, but we’re still happy to take your money! We’ll deliver your refrigerator between 4 and 6 pm. Sorry, we’ll have to deliver it next week, something came up. Come to our event as a thank you for your patronage, there will be free food and drink. Sorry, we canceled the food. Now it’s just a few bottles of water. But still, thank you for coming!
When Clients Trust You, They Open Up to You
When you don’t randomly change meeting times because you’re busy, or say you’ll send something over and forget, clients just trust you more and more. They see who you are. A person that can be trusted. And they start to open up and share that they actually have a second home that also needs to be designed. Or that their friends just bought a home and need assistance as well. Or, even, something went wrong and they feel comfortable enough to share it with you.
Trust is necessary not only for the beginning of the relationship, but throughout your entire time together. It’s not just necessary so you can get clients to say yes to becoming a client, or giving you a retainer, or signing your contract. Trust is necessary every step of the way. Because if a client doesn’t trust you, they’re going to start pushing back more. Checking up on you. Questioning your choices and your fees and pricing. Starting to take control. Having a client who doesn’t completely trust your firm or your process could make a project a very, very unpleasant one. And it may not even be that they don’t trust your ethics, they may just not trust your promises.
Ask Yourself, “Is There Any Possible Way I Can Make This Happen?”
So the next time you consider canceling or moving a meeting, hesitate and ask yourself if there’s any possible way you could make it happen. The next time you think to yourself, “I could just call up Dr. Jones and ask him if we can change our meeting to 3:00 tomorrow instead of 3:00 today, and he’ll say it’s fine,” think twice. Because maybe he will say it’s fine, on the phone. But maybe after he gets off the phone he says, “Ugh. I didn’t take any clients today after 2 so I made sure that I would be home in time for the meeting at 3. But because she had something come up and wants to cancel, I’ve lost out on seeing patients for the rest of the day. And I have to call and cancel on clients for tomorrow. This whole experience is really starting to tick me off.” But to you he may have just said, “Yeah, that’s fine.” because he’s eager to move on with the project.
Remember that honoring your commitments really does set a business apart. Yes, it sounds like common sense. Like a super “duh” moment. But, I assure you it’s not common practice. Finding a business that honors every single one of their commitments is no small feat. And makes them a rare gem in my eyes.
I can think of a handful of companies who truly, and consistently, deliver upon their promises. Whole Foods. A small chain restaurant called Garbanzo. The Oberoi Hotel. A random tree company that cut down a dead tree in the backyard. Weston’s dentist (more on that later).That’s really it off the top of my head. I’m sure there are more, but not a lot more. Maybe 5 or 6 more that I can’t think of right now because I haven’t done business there lately. But even still, that’s it. A lifetime of interacting with businesses, and maybe only about 10 that really do honor all of their promises and commitments.
Honoring Your Commitments is Work, but it Also Gets You More Work
Now yes, honoring all of your commitments does sometimes mean you’ll have to push yourself to meet a deadline during a particularly busy week. Or to stay late to prepare for a meeting. Or to get in early so you return a dreaded phone call on time. But when you do, it makes you a stand out.
Most businesses just think, ehh, it’s not a big deal. I’ll cancel or push it back. But, it is a big deal. It is important. It’s important that your clients know they can trust you with the small things like sending documents when you said you would, or following up with a phone call to share the next steps in a resolution. Because delivering on the small things allows them to trust you with the much bigger things, like giving you thousands and thousands of dollars and complete access to their family home. Because really, would you want to give all of that to someone who couldn’t even keep a meeting?
If you’d like even more ideas on how to provide the kind of client service that gets you higher fees and profits, visit the Services page to find out more!