Archive for the ‘Client Love’ Category

How to Follow Your Own Act

One of the attorneys I’ve worked with over the years is a wonderful fellow.

Family man. Very personable. Knows his stuff. Gets done what he’s hired to get done. A real credit to his profession.

So what was always so disconcerting after he’d finish a matter for me was this utterly abrupt end to our communication.

And I mean A-brupt. Every time.

It’s crazy, because whenever I’d contact him again on something new, we’d pick up as if we’d just spoken yesterday.

Yet, at the end of each project, I couldn’t help feel as if I’d done something wrong.

Was I a horrible client? I don’t tend to think so because being an independent service provider myself, I’m always very conscious about how I treat other service professionals.

I know what I don’t care for in clients and I make sure I am the kind of client I would want for myself.

I clearly communicated my needs, made sure I understood what to expect and I always paid on time (and as you know, attorneys are not inexpensive).

But I’d never get so much as a thank you for my payment.

All communication would just end completely until the next time I had need to call on him.

And then it would be, “Hey, Danielle! How’s it going?” as it nothing was amiss and we were long-lost buddies.

So I got to thinking:

  • How many of you business owners out there are failing in your end game?
  • What are you doing to nurture your relationships?
  • Are you making sure clients and customers feel welcome to contact you again?
  • How are you helping them in between services?

In answer to these questions, here’s a list I drew up that I think will be very helpful to you if you are neglecting your all-important follow-up act. Clients want to know you like and appreciate them — before, during and after your interactions.

1. Thank your customers and clients. It seems simple enough, right? I mean, it’s just good manners. But as I shared in my story above, sometimes it’s the most obvious things that fall through the cracks. So be sure and thank your clients and customers. And I mean something beyond simply typing a line on your invoice template. Automate it or delegate it if you have to, but do go to the extra effort to thank people in a more deliberate way for their business at the conclusion of your interactions. Each and every time.

2. Ask them what’s next. Find out what projects or goals they’re thinking about currently or that are on the horizon. Not only is this good relationship-building, but it’s also a great way to find out where there are more opportunities to business together.

3. Be a knowledge center and resource. When you make the effort to know a bit more about your clients and target market, and where their interests are, you can pass on information that you think will be useful and of interest to them. You can do this individually and/or use the information to come up with relevant topics for your blog and/or ezine. “The list is the thing!” as they say, and I can’t stress enough how perfect an ezine and blog are for this task. As long as you are providing content that is of value to your clients/target market, this is a fantastic way to keep in touch, maintain connection and rapport, and create your own marketing pipeline. While you’re delivering all this great, helpful information to subscribers, it also gives you a platform to keep them informed about the goings-on in your business and remind them about services you provide that they might not know or remember (hint: refer back to #2).

4. Invite them into your networks. Hey, you’re not the only one looking to make connections. Inviting your clients and customers into your social/business networks is a nice gesture, gives them opportunities to make new contacts, and keeps them in your pipeline as well. They might even extend the favor back.

5. Be a referral source. Know what your customers do. Ask your clients what makes a good referral for them. And then spread the word. One good turn tends to result in another.

6. Get their feedback. Clients appreciate the opportunity to be heard. It shows them you care. Of course you want to know what you’re doing a good job, but don’t be afraid to look in the mirror if clients point out areas where you can stand to improve. This is pure gold to your business and you should be grateful for having those blindspots illuminated. Let them know how much their input means to you and that it will be used to make improvements whenever, wherever needed.

7. Let clients know how to refer business to you. Clients are people and most people like to help others. Clients who love their service providers enjoy spreading the word on their behalf. Tell them what makes a great referral for you and exactly who you are looking to work with. The more clear and specific you are, the easier you make it for them to send others your way and the more frequently they will do so.

RESOURCE: If you’re looking for a fantastic, comprehensive feedback form that can be adapted to any business, get our Client Feedback Form the ACA Success Store.

© Copyright by Danielle Keister for the Administrative Consultants Association. You are granted permission to republish this article only if used without alteration in its entirety with this copyright notice, title, article content, resource, and links left intact.

There Are No Shortcuts to Being Genuine

I stopped by my post office box over the weekend and among other things received a SendOutCard from a marketer.

Gag.

I would never in a million years send one of those cheap, tacky, gang-printed, computer-signed cards to anyone I cared about, much less any of my clients.

Who’s going to feel special when they know they are just an outsourced chore that must be attended to for convention’s sake and that you can’t be bothered to even sign your own name or write a personal note?

When it comes to me, do me a favor… save a tree and yourself the time and postage (and me the lowered opinion) and just don’t bother at all.

Sure, sending sentiments takes an effort.

Sure, time is precious when you are running a business.

Systemization, processes and automation are very important things to leverage.

But there are just some things in life – and business – that need to be taken time for, and the effort extended, if they are going to mean anything.

There are no shortcuts when it comes to being genuine and authentic.

This very past week, in fact, I received an unexpected card from my insurance company thanking me for a referral I sent to them.

It was all hand-written: my address, their return address and the message inside the card.

This is a very busy firm, too. Having staff expend time and resources to provide this kind of personal attention is no small expense.

But it matters.

I felt special. I felt warm and fuzzy about them. I felt like I alone was singled out to receive this personal gesture. I thought, now THIS is a classy business and my opinion and loyalty to them shot even higher. It was absolutely lovely.

With a little advance planning, sending cards doesn’t have to be a chore. Here are some of my best tips:

  1. Do your card-shopping in advance. Starting in September or October will put you way ahead of the game. If you come across a few designs you really like, get them all and you’ll have a future supply.
  2. Have some taste and make a thoughtful selection. Don’t just grab the first thing you see. Pick out a design or two that you really like that reflects your personality or sentiments.
  3. Get your card list together starting in September so you can then create mail-merged labels. Your saved list will also give you a headstart the following year.
  4. Some experts recommend addressing everything by hand. Others say go ahead and use labels on the outside, but sign your name and write your personal message by hand. I personally like to use labels or preprinted envelopes for my return address (to ensure legibility and mail delivery) and then write everything else out by hand.
  5. Do a little at a time. By starting in September, you’ve got plenty of time to do a few cards a day or each week. By the time the holiday season rolls around, you’ll have everything ready to be mailed out. You’ll at least be way ahead of the game.

Don’t be a cheapskate. And I’m not talking about money here. I’m talking about soul. Cheapskates turn the world into a Walmart and suck the very essence of life from it.

Dear Danielle: What Is My Guarantee?

Dear Danielle:

I am interested in hiring an Administrative Consultant. My ideas are getting clearer, but I still haven’t completely thought through how it would work. I need to know that I can trust someone enough to give them access to my personal information and count on them to be reliable and competent enough to assign projects. My identity and reputation are at risk. What kind of references or assurances can I ask a candidate for? What can I do to safeguard myself if I do hire someone? –KP

For a relationship with an administrative support partner to work, you must first understand that this is a business-to-business relationship. I wasn’t sure from some of the terminology you used that you understood that so I feel it’s important to clarify this.

As far as know how it works, that’s the beauty of working with professionals who are in business for themselves. You don’t have to figure out how it works. That’s not your burden to shoulder. They will lead that process for you.

As business owners (not employees), we each have our own systems and processes for getting thing started with a new client.

One of the first things we do with any prospective client is have a conversation with you (i.e., consultation) where we ask you questions to learn more about you, your business and your challenges and goals in growing your business.

From there we make our support plan recommendations and together decide where the best place is to start supporting you.

If we decide to begin working together, we then give you the information you need to know about how our business works and what our policies and procedures are for communicating and submitting work requests.

As you consult with people in our industry to find the one who is right for you, they will explain how these things work in their own particular business, and how they can help you get started with their service.

As far as what assurances or guarantees you can expect, much of that is going to depend on how you go about your selection process.

Each person is an independent business owner. That means, you are going to need to do your homework, review websites and then talk with those who pique your interest and present themselves as the best qualified to meet your needs and the best match in terms of personality and chemistry.

None of us ever has any foolproof, 100% guarantee that we won’t have any problems with a service provider we select.

As consumers, all any of us can do is try to make the most educated choice based on value, quality, competence and fit.

That requires us to do our homework. Beyond that, there simply will need to be a minimum level of trust extended or else there is no basis for the business relationship.

Of course, I don’t advise any client to hand over vital, secure personal or business information right off the bat.

Keep in mind that this is an ongoing, collaborative relationship. As you continue to work together, your relationship and trust level evolves. If at some point it makes sense to give your administrative support partner access to certain security information in order to conduct work on your behalf, that’s something you can decide at any point along the way.

To help you select a qualified, competent and professional Administrative Consultant, I wrote a guide to help business owners know what to look for and why: How to Choose an Administrative Consultant

Grateful for Client Who Pay on Time

“Payday” is coming up for me on the 25th and I am reminded how grateful I am for wonderful clients who pay on time.

I am super-picky about who I work with.

Long experience and tough lessons learned (I’ve been in this business since 1997) have taught me that I absolutely can not afford to work with anyone who is a drain on my time, my energy or my spirit.

After years of refining and streamlining my business and gaining more and more clarity about who I work with best, who I like working with, and who is profitable for me to work with, I now have a client roster of wonderful folks who appreciate my work and are a pleasure to work with.

One of the benefits of those relationships is that I am never paid late. Part of that has to do with the standards and policies I’ve put in place in my business.

I work on monthly retainer where clients pay in advance for a monthly plan of administrative support customized for them. And I have all of my retainer clients on auto-pay so all I have to do is run their credit cards on the 25th of each month and I’m paid.

No late payments. No waiting around for checks. No chasing after my money and forgetful clients.

It’s a convenience for my clients as well and eliminates one less step they have to keep track of.

The other part is simply that I work with people who value our relationship and what my work brings to them and their business.

I am so grateful to all of my clients, who honor me with their business and confidence!