As a small business owner, turning every customer into a lasting connection is extremely valuable for building repeat business, steady cashflow, and growth over time. It’s your most loyal customers after all that give you the best kind of referrals you could ask for – word of mouth. This takes time and effort of course, but the value it provides in the long run is well worth it.
So what can you do to build long term connections, besides just doing your best work? Think about all the times you’ve hired someone to do something, whether it’s for business or personal. What were your expectations? In what instances were your expectations exceeded?
Here are four ways you can think about exceeding your own customers’ expectations, and building the long term relationships that keep them coming back for years to come.
1. Over communicate every step of the way
No matter how busy you get delivering on your project, never let communication fall by the wayside. Reply to your customers’ messages and emails within a day. Give regular updates on job progress, and send progress photos along the way. Use follow-up emails to recap any topics you discussed over the phone or in person – this goes a long way to show your professionalism and commitment to delivering on what you promise. If you’re a freelancer with clients in different time zones, set a schedule for communication so you don’t miss deadlines. Do setboundaries, though. It’s important, particularly when you’re running your own show, to establish work-life balance. If you don’t want to check messages after 5PM or if you don’t want to give out your home phone number, just communicate this from the start so there’s no room for disappointment.
2. Be transparent
If problems or questions arise about a job, don’t hide them. Believe it or not, you’ll often get more respect by being open and honest, than not having any problems to report at all. Contact your customer right away to show you care about them, and the quality of your work. Put it behind you as quickly as possible by taking the blame if needed, and doing whatever it takes to fix the problem.
Be transparent about pricing, starting with your initial estimate. Many business owners kick off the relationship with their customer with a vague estimate, which can sometimes instill a sense of distrust from the outset. Over-communicating the types of costs that are likely to arise signals to the customer they are dealing with someone they can trust.
3. Make it super simple to do business with you
Our guess is, most of your customers are tech savvy, and have expectations that you’ll use modern methods of communication, invoicing, payment collection, and staying connected. There’s nothing worse than delivering a perfect job for a customer, then making it hard for them to do something simple like pay you. It’s amazing how fast you can go from someone who’s made their life easier, to someone who’s become a real thorn in their side.
Invoice2go gives you a number of tools for a seamless customer experience. Electronic invoicing and online payment collection eliminates the need for paper invoices or checks to be sent in the mail. Making it easy for your customers to pay you is one of the best ways to create a lasting positive impression at the end of the job.
4. Do favors, get favors/go beyond
Every now and then, do a favor for your customers. Send them a resource you know they’ll find valuable. Offer a little work for free. Or send a referral their way. This could be done at the start of the relationship or any time thereafter. And this can work the other way, too. Have you ever heard of the “Ben Franklin” effect? It happens when someone who’s done a favor for another person becomes more loyal to that person afterwards. It sounds odd, but when you have an established relationship, ask for an occasional small favor from your customer. That may be anything from asking them to give a shout-out for your business on their social media or a little professional advice. When they do you a favor, it means they’ve invested something beyond a paid invoice in your relationship, so it’s more meaningful to them.
Turn every customer into a long term, loyal advocate by following these four steps – your cash flow will thank you.
Want to dig deeper? Start every relationship on the right foot by reading, Finding common ground with your customer.