Happy New Year! I hope you had an absolutely wonderful holiday season filled with lots of food, fun, family, & friends. I know I sure did! But let’s be honest, sometimes the holidays can be PRETTY exhausting. So if you’re like me and are slightly relieved that the overwhelm of the holidays is over, let’s get on with the greatness that lies in every day life!
Stop the Mistreatment
Now in the last post of 2019, we talked about making client service, experience, and treatment an absolute top priority in 2020. And it certainly should be, as its importance and impact aren’t going away. But today I want to talk about something else, training your clients to treat YOU well.
Now a lot of you might be saying, “heck yeah, I want to know how to do that!” as you’ve probably endured mistreatment from clients in big and small ways over the years. Calls on the weekends or evenings, incessant texting, budget and timeline demands that are completely out of line with reality, etc. are all probably things that you’ve unfortunately had to face. Maybe, a whole lot more. And you’d really love it to stop. So let’s talk about how to do just that.
Don’t Leave Your Treatment Up to Interpretation
Training clients on how you’d like to be treated is an absolute necessity – just like it is with anyone else we interact with in life. We set the precedent on how we expect to be treated, and 98% of the time, people will follow suit. It’s when we don’t set clear guidelines and expectations on how we expect to be treated that things are left up to assumptions and interpretation. And well, that’s never a good thing. For you, or the other party.
Now when you’re training your clients to treat you well, it does of course have to be done with a soft hand. It’s important not to be demanding, overbearing, or harsh when sharing this information as this can be a real turn off to clients, particularly new ones, and run them out before the project even begins. But it still is information that you’ll want to share.
So when you are sharing info with clients on how things are going to roll between you, focus on what you want, not what you don’t want. For example, “you can contact us by phone call at (xxx) xxx-xxxx” rather than “Under no circumstances do we text.” Clients will naturally understand, oh, ok, I should call her. It’s clear, informative, helpful, and light, without coming off in anyway as unfriendly or rude.
You also want to be sharing this information from the beginning. Changing how someone is already treating you is a heck of a lot more difficult than it is to set the precedent upon your first interactions. So, listing on your website how you run your business, what your services are and what they include, what your design process is, what your office hours are, etc. is where you can begin. It’s simple enough, but very effective.
Then you move on to setting up the screening call and sharing how your design and onboarding process works, writing out the specific steps, and sharing these steps with the client along the way. Next, focus on your Welcome Packet or onboarding documents – share the details of what it’s actually like to work with your firm and walk your clients through it as you sit down for that first time in your initial consultation.
Show & Tell Your Clients How Things Will Be Done
In all of these ways, you’re showing your clients who the project lead is, how you run your business, and how you expect to be treated. Otherwise, clients will resort to whatever is best for them, often because they simply don’t know how else to go about it.
Think about it this way. If you don’t know when a business is open that you want to work with, you’ll contact them at any hour to see if they’re there. If you don’t know the best way to contact them, you’ll use whatever method is best for you or that you prefer. If you don’t know what services they provide, you’ll keep asking if this and that are included. You’ll just keep asking or making assumptions, simply because you don’t have the proper information from the business. It’s not your fault or that you’re trying to be difficult, you just don’t have any guidelines to work from so you have to work around that fact.
The same goes with your clients. The vast majority of them don’t want to mistreat you. They don’t want to upset you. They want you to be happy, as well, you’re the one controlling the project and they don’t want to risk angering you and upsetting the project’s progression. They just don’t know what you’d like to happen in terms of how they interact with you.
Draw Boundaries & Guidelines for Everyone’s Benefit
So, do both of you a favor and tell them. Take the time to draw boundaries, guidelines, and standards around your business. Come up with very specific business hours, state them in your Welcome Packet, on your site, and share them in the initial conversations.
Write down exactly what your Services are, and what they include (but avoid saying what they don’t include as that can come across as harsh). Decide the method of communication you’d like to stick with, and whether or not that includes texting. (Hint, if you don’t want clients to text you, avoid ever texting them. If you start it, they think it’s ok and the flood gates officially open).
Decide on what your email or phone reply time is. Develop a consistent communication schedule and method so clients always know when they’ll be hearing from you and how, thus reducing the need and frequency of them reaching out to you. Decide on a billing schedule and a payment schedule that you can remain completely committed to.
Now yes, it does take time to make decisions on all of these items and document them, but I assure you it will help both you and your clients in the long run. Most clients are not only happy to follow your guidelines, but in fact would prefer that they know what they are. It makes their interactions with you and your firm that much easier as they don’t have to worry or wonder when they can expect a reply to their email, if it’s ok to ask you a question on the weekend, if texting is fine with you or not, when that next bill is going to show up in the mail (and when it needs to be paid by). Having clearly defined guidelines actually makes everyone’s life easier.
Consistently Stick to Your Own Guidelines
So remember, you make the rules and guidelines on how your firm is run, how your projects are run, and how your interactions with clients go. But in order to do that successfully, you first need to take the time to sit down and make the decisions on just what they are – and then consistently stick to them.
If you say your business hours are 9-5, don’t respond to an email that comes in at 6. Wait until 9 am that next morning. If you do, you’ve just trained that client to think that you’ll respond to emails outside of business hours. If you have a strict no texting policy, then don’t respond to a text, via text. Call them back to address their concern, and do it during office hours. Otherwise they’ll start thinking texting is ok.
This goes for guidelines that are “unspoken” as well – be extremely consistent. The more consistent you are with how you operate, the more clients will realize that this is the way things are and won’t think to try and change it. The less consistent you are however, the more clients will realize that there is no strict standard and they just make things up as they go.
Lead Clients to Where You Want Them to Go
So in your efforts to put client service and treatment at the top of your list in 2020, remember to include training them on how to treat you. Don’t leave it up to interpretation. Don’t leave it up to assumptions. And don’t leave it up to inconsistency.
Instead, take the time to get super clear on how you want the interactions to go. Lead them to where you want to go. Decide what you want. Document it. Share it. Then follow through with it. And when you do, 2020 is sure to be your best year yet.
Write in the comments below, how do you train clients to treat you well? I’d love to hear!
And if you’d really like to focus on providing an exceptional client experience this year, check out the listing of guides and resources available to you here!