One of the things I notice while working with clients (and being one) is that some of us are pretty good at making things hard on our customers.
Hard on customers?
You might be.
Let’s clean up a few things so you can make it easier on them (and easier to keep them as clients).
Show up on time
Given that so many people have smart phones, smart watches, computers in their cars and so on – you would *think* that they’d be on time more often.
When you don’t show up when you said you would, you make it hard on your customers. I know, I know. You can’t always do that.
Here’s what you can do – the instant you know there’s a chance you’ll be late, call to warn them. Give them options (bail or wait?) If you can, dispatch someone else to take care of their situation. Few things annoy a customer or partner more than setting time aside (or taking time off work) to meet you, only to have you show up 90 minutes late without a call.
While it’s an obvious, common sense competitive edge, why isn’t everyone on time?
Close the four hour window
My impression is that a lot of vendors are getting better at this, but there are still enough out there telling their customers that they’ll meet them between 8:00 AM and noon, or “sometime in the afternoon”.
This shows a (perhaps passive) lack of respect for the customer’s time.
Do you really manage your time and your staff / equipment resources so poorly that you can’t estimate arrival windows to smaller increments than half a day? I doubt it. I think you’ve gotten used to it and haven’t changed it because it’s comfortable. Comfortable for you, that is. I assure you that your customers don’t feel this way. Don’t trust me on this – ask your customers if they’d appreciate a smaller window. They might even pay more to get a smaller window.
Arrive with what you need
Sometimes, you don’t know what the deal is because the customer didn’t explain the situation too well. Sometimes you don’t know what size of this or that to show up with, and if you took this too far and showed up with the right parts every time, you’d have to drive an eighteen wheeler to work. While you probably can’t know what you need every single time, do what you can to reduce the “I’ll be right back, gotta grab some parts” trips. They increase your overhead and they annoy your customer.
Make it easy to pay
Offer some payment convenience.
Fewer and fewer people like handing over a piece of paper with their bank account number on it (ie: a check). If you get a smartphone-enable credit card reader such as Square, you save a trip to the bank and they get to pay without a check – if that’s what they want to do.
Keep track of the paper
If you must save the business paperwork that your customers send you and you can’t replace the paper system with something else (assuming that thing will work better), make sure you can find their paperwork when you need it.records. I recently sold a house. On two separate occasions, the deal was almost scuttled (or made far more expensive) because someone misfiled paperwork related to little things like septic plans and wells. A sharp agent is the only thing that prevented an expensive, annoying outcome.
Making it easy back at the ranch
Fact is, we don’t limit this “making it hard” thing to customers. We’re also pretty good at making things hard on our own people.
While work isn’t necessarily supposed to be easy, there’s no reason to make it more difficult than it already is. Each of the make-it-easier for customers things have an impact on your staff. Your internal systems for communication, tracking and appointment management are critical to making this easy to fulfill for your clients. If they aren’t, your products and servers are much less likely to be delivered in a friction-free manner. Don’t make your staff fight the system to get their work done.
Always be looking for bumpy spots and internal / external hassles you can eliminate. Make it easy for them to recommend you to someone, and to call you back the next time.