When you decide to take the leap into working with clients one-on-one or even with a small group, it often comes with a lot of pressure. For one, you want the information, product or result you provide in return to be top notch since these services tend to cost more than the average ebook or workshop. You want to be perceived as professional so that your clients are comfortable with their decision to work with you. And over all, you want to make a great, long lasting impression because you know that's what will make your clients want to hire you again in the future and also recommend you to their friends and family.
But managing your client expectations and creating a great experience goes above and beyond showing up for a Skype call or answering their questions. In fact, it begins as soon as they decide to hand over their hard earned money to you.
So where do you start? Focus on these tips...
SET SOLID EXPECTATIONS BEFOREHAND
Before you can begin to manage your client expectations, you need to set a few in place before you even think about taking on a new client. The expectations you set should be an overview of exactly what your client should expect from you and exactly what you expect to receive from them. In my coaching business, I let my clients know that I expect them to be very open and honest with me about their current journey as it will help shape the content and information we cover during our time together. I also expect them to complete their assigned homework after each session. They know if it isn't completed then we can not move on to our next session.
On the flip side, my clients know that if they have any questions for me, I am here to answer and further explain. And they know if I promise to provide extra resources like worksheets or workbooks, that they will receive it during our time together. Setting clear expectations helps to eliminate any potential stress or confusion that may occur between you and your client. After recently revamping my coaching services, I now include my client expectations within each of my contracts.
YOU WORK TOGETHER, NOT FOR THEM
This point is more of an expectation but I felt that it was important enough to highlight on its own. The number one tip I wish someone would have given me about running a service based business is to let my clients know ahead time that I do not work FOR THEM, but WITH THEM! Yes they are giving you their money in exchange for something BUT no matter if you are a graphic designer, business coach or fashion stylist, you and your clients have to be partners in order to get the most out of your time together. Just as I provide my audience with the information they need to get their business off of the ground, it wouldn't be possible if they didn't actually do the work. Let's say you are a graphic designer, there is no way you can help bring your clients visual brand to life if they don't provide you with inspiration and their opinions. It takes the both of you.
This also comes in handy as a service provider when it comes to setting boundaries for yourself. Some clients can be demanding and letting them know things like your days and hours of operation and when they can expect to hear from you will eliminate a lot of trouble.
Set clear expectations! You work WITH your clients not FOR them!
PERFECT YOUR PROCESS
Your client process is exactly what your client will do from the time they land on your sales page to the time they have their first session or interaction with you. The last thing you want to do is have your clients jump through hoops just to give you their money, schedule their session or communicate with you. Try writing down every single step in your process from beginning to end. Then ask yourself which steps are unnecessary & which steps need to be simplified. If you're having trouble separating yourself, ask a friend to go through your process and give their honest feedback.
LEAVE THE LINE OF COMMUNICATION OPEN
You offer a service because it will help your audience through a specific pain point they are experiencing. Because of this, questions and concerns are bound to arise. To really create a great experience and build trust between you and your client, you should leave the line of communication open. Make them feel comfortable in knowing that if they have any questions, concerns or if they are having any reservations about their experience with you that you are open to discussing it and that you want their honest feedback.
UNDER PROMISE & OVER DELIVER
Setting great expectations for your audience and ensuring that they have an incredible experience means going the extra mile and doing what isn't expected. Creating little experiences that will really make your client say "WOW" will often help you to stand out from others in your industry (yes, word gets around fast!) For example, if you offer weekly email check-ins with your client, let a few of those be actual 30min Skype calls. Or if you see that your client needs a little more help in a certain area, compile a list of resources that they can use after your time together. If your design client is attending a big event, maybe throw in a business card design into their package. My favorite way to over deliver is to mail a physical package of goodies and resources straight to my clients door.
If you want to create an incredible client experience, you need to under promise and over deliver."
INVEST IN THE PROPER SYSTEMS & TOOLS
The same way you need to perfect your client process, you need to make sure the systems and tools you use to manage and communicate with clients is helping the experience and not hurting it. This can be investing in an all in one system like Satori or 17Hats that helps you to keep all of your clients in one place. Or investing in a great lighting set so that your video calls are bright and clear. If your microphone is always cutting out or the program you use is stopping you from properly giving your client what they need, it's just going to result in an angry, frustrated client. You want to try your best to avoid that.
CREATE AN ACTION PLAN & GOALS AHEAD OF TIME
When a client signs up to work with you, a major part of setting a great expectation is being well-prepared. That means first getting to know your client through an in depth questionnaire and then prepping what strategies you will create together, what goals need to be met and what resources you will provide to help them during your time together. Being prepared shows that you are serious about what you do and it just looks professional. The last thing you want to do is hop on your first session with your client just for there to be awkward silence for an entire hour or more.
In my upcoming course, Purpose To Service, I'll be showing you EXACTLY how to set goals, an action plan and curriculum for your clients.
ASK FOR FEEDBACK
You're not perfect, nor will you ever be perfect but there is always room for growth. The best way to make sure you are getting better at what you do and really create an incredible experience for future clients is to learn from your past mistakes straight from "the horses mouth". After your time with your client, I encourage you to ask them for feedback. Ask them about the finished product you delivered or the transformation that took place after working with you. I would even ask about their overall experience with you and if they would recommend you to friends.
While this can be uncomfortable to ask and even more uncomfortable to receive, it's highly important for your brands success! Not only will it help you fix any issues you may have with the client that provided you with feedback, but it also provides you with areas of improvement so that you wont make the same mistakes in the future. Clients also like to know that their experience matters.
One more point to add, there is no possible way that you will be able to make every single one of your clients 100% happy. And you should not do anything that makes you uncomfortable or makes you work outside of your boundaries to try to win them over. Do your best and let them know up front what they get when working from you. Yes, sometimes it is necessary to fire a client.
Overall, you want to cater to your clients in a way that not only leaves them with an incredible experience but that also allows you to set expectations and run your business on your own terms. I know for a fact that many service based business owners (myself included) continually book new clients because of the great rapport they build with past clients. You want to be known as the person in your industry who goes above and beyond for the people they work with and not the one who slacks off as soon as they receive payment!