Aaron recently reminded me of a great client service strategy, telling clients to take their business elsewhere. I know it sounds odd, but hear me out. A few days ago our car keys needed new batteries. So Aaron called the dealership to ask when we could bring our keys in to get the batteries replaced. The car dealership’s response? While we are of course happy to do that for you, it would probably be faster and definitely cheaper for you if you just get them at Target. They’re only $3 for 2 there. And $10 each here.
Say what? You’re actually recommending that I go somewhere else to buy something? Which only benefits me, the customer. And costs you, the dealership? Yep. And Aaron’s response? He actually texted me to tell me how much he loved and trusted the dealership because of what they said.
A Client Service Lesson from Santa
If you’ve ever seen the original Miracle on 34th Street, you’ve seen the Macy’s Santa doing the same thing. When a child asked for the crazy popular toy of that year, and Santa promised it to him, his mother become furious. Don’t you know that toy is out everywhere? Macy’s doesn’t sell it. No one does. Santa’s response? Well, you can get it down the street at x store. And it’s only $4. And with every newly approaching parent and child, Santa did the same thing. I’ll tell you where to get the toy your child wants, no matter where it’s sold.
The reaction? Parents became fanatically devoted to that Santa, and Macy’s. Because customers appreciate when a business is honestly looking out for the customer’s best interest first. And the benefit for the store? It’s actually profitable long term. As Mr. Macy says when he decides to officially adopt the policy to tell parents where to find a toy no matter where it’s sold, “This way we’ll be known as the store with a heart. The store that puts public service above profits. And consequently of course we’ll make more profits.”
Kindness is a Great Business Strategy
Although I definitely don’t recommend being kind to your clients and putting their best interest first just because it’s profitable. It is in fact, profitable. Why? Because we trust people who honestly look out for us. We remain loyal to them. We look for ways to spend time with them, rather than looking for ways to get out of being with them. And because, it’s rare. Most businesses are only looking out for themselves and their bottom line. So the business willing to forfeit profit to ensure that the client wins, also wins in the end.
So when you have someone approach you for a service or design style that you don’t offer, let them know what designer does offer that service or style. They’ll remember you and recommend you to other people who do need your service or style. When you have an opportunity to profit more by selling a client one high price fabric that you know is of the same quality than a more reasonably priced fabric, recommend the reasonably priced fabric. Let them know that it’s not worth it to pay the extra cost. And that extra money can be better spent elsewhere in the project, or saved.
Or if you have a prospect that says they want a full service design, but once you learn about the project you realize they really only need your “Designer in a Day” package, let them know. There will certainly be shock and awe in the fact that you were incredibly honest and willing to forfeit a lot of profit for their benefit. But may still decide they’d like to go ahead with the full service design, and may even begin to think about how else they can work with you in the future. Finding a business that’s that client focused is just not something that people walk away from. It’s something they run towards.
Their Benefit is Also Your Benefit
So I say, put your client’s needs first. And your business needs second. It may be a bit contrary to what sounds like good business sense. Or contrary to what a lot of business experts may tell you. But, I wholeheartedly believe it.
Train yourself, and your employees, to really do what’s in the client’s best interest, every single time. No matter if you lose business or profit as a result. Because when you’re willing to send clients elsewhere for their benefit or forfeit a potential sale, it shows a great deal of confidence and trustworthiness that people will not be quick to forget. So let your business be honest to a fault. Except thankfully, it won’t be a fault. It will be a huge benefit. To everyone.
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!