We conduct multiple client surveys and interviews every year to help professional service firms improve their brand loyalty. Based on our research, the top two reasons that clients leave a professional service firm is that they don’t feel valued and they don’t perceive value from the relationship.
If you find yourself in this situation at your firm: straying clients, unhappy clients, bad reviews or certain disciplines that don’t handle client service as well as others, it may be time for team training on your client service standards as well as a refresh on your brand positioning. Help everyone serve clients consistently well.
To get you started, here are four baseline behaviors that every professional who directly works with clients should exhibit with every client encounter.
We understand that some people don’t find small talk particularly easy. But your clients expect a certain level of check-in or friendliness when you communicate. Start calls or meetings by asking about their week, showing interest in them as people.
You will quickly see if clients appreciate a few minutes of settling into the meeting and also when they want to get right down to business. Keep their preferences in mind for the next time you meet.
As a professional service provider, there is no excuse for disorganization. Before a meeting, build in 15 minutes of time to prep for the agenda, understand the goals for the day or week, see who is part of the meeting and who is responsible for each item on the to-do list. If you have trouble keeping a calendar, identify an app or assistant that can remind you with notifications or alarms for the most important meetings.
Even if you are in the field, make use of mobile devices and previous notes to prepare for an efficient conversation with clients. Be the keeper of details. That way, your clients can easily move from your meeting to the next one.
Set clear deadlines.
Before you set a deadline, make sure that it makes sense for the client as well as for your team. There is nothing worse than setting an unrealistic deadline or accepting a client’s deadline when you know it won’t work. Speak up and work out a compromise.
Frequently missed deadlines won’t garner much favor with clients. Avoid setting up yourself or your team for failure. Understand the realities of time to deliver quality work in the midst of competing projects and the unexpected.
With these things in mind, organize the timeline with a mental goal of delivery BEFORE the deadline. It will help set realistic expectations with clients.
After every honest effort, if you can’t meet a deadline, speak up. In our research, we find that if clients simply hear regularly from their professional service providers on project progress, they are more accepting of delays. Communicate honestly and often about issues so they can be a partner in the process.
Determine the client’s preferred method of communication. Do they like when you pick up the phone or not? Try providing a summary of outstanding items or questions in one email. That way, they don’t have to scan through multiple emails or messages. If you use voicemail, be clear on what you need. Unless you know the client really well and they prefer it, avoid leaving a message that just says, “call me back.”
Be respectful of the client’s time and money. When it comes down to it, they are trusting you to deliver value and help them reach their goals. Show them that you value them, too! It will enhance your brand positioning.
Do you have really great clients who are able to give you personal testimonials?
Here are some tips to get better testimonials.