Consistency. It’s the key for any small business owner who provides a service. And it’s especially important in how you deliver value to your customers.
It’s easy to fall into a lull of doing work. You get a new project. You get it done and get paid.
And do you know how people will see you?
As someone who merely completes a task. A worker bee.
If you’re only doing the bare minimum, clients won’t respect your expertise and value you offer.
And I get it. It takes time to do more when you feel like you’re juggling everything and trying to grow your business.
You can exceed your customer’s expectations without running yourself ragged. You’ll need to create some new habits.
Let’s go over a few ways to keep your customers happy and get them to see you as a “partner” instead of a “resource.”
These are routines and methods I practice in my own business to earn — and maintain — respect from my clients.
Provide Value Using Proactive Communication
It’s easy to get caught up in your business, your world. But you can’t allow yourself to go so far down the rabbit hole that other things fall by the wayside — like communication.
The last thing you want is to let days turn into weeks without any follow up. Your clients will move from ‘concerned’ to ‘peeved’ before going into the final stage of ‘pissed off.’
Don’t leave people wondering if you’re still alive. Create a system to keep in touch.
Since I’m a one-woman show, Google Calendar works for me.
Sending out regular updates mitigates any issues or unexpected emergencies. By reaching out first, you can put the customer’s mind at ease.
They’ll also know that they won’t have to chase you down to get answers.
This small step positions you in their mind as a serious business owner who cares enough to communicate proactively.
Do What You Say You’re Going to Do
Integrity. It’s such a simple concept, but many people — for a variety of reasons — drop the ball on this.
As a small business owner, this ain’t gonna fly. Your reputation depends on it. Someone bad-mouthing your company because you didn’t hold up your end isn’t great for business.
I’ve seen it happen with businesses who were desperate to bring in new customers. They had an “I’ll figure it out later. I’m just want to close this deal.” attitude.
So they overpromised on what they could realistically do. Once people found out the company couldn’t follow through all hell broke loose.
Don’t be that business. Only make promises you can keep.
Even if people threaten to go to a competitor because you don’t offer XYZ. Let them. You can’t be everything to everyone, and that’s okay.
One of the easiest ways to stand out as a business is to be honest, and do what you say you’re going to do.
Your customer doesn’t want the world (usually). What they do want is to work with people who make their lives easier.
Keep Learning About Your Industry (and Theirs)
Speaking from experience, keeping up with every new content trend, report, an article about my industry is hard. There is only so much information one person can consume.
Throw in staying up-to-date with my client’s industry makes it even more so. My cup quickly gets full.
But I understand my mind needs to be fresh, so I’m able to create and provide value to my clients. So I figure out how to keep up and stay sane.
Using apps like Feedly, I’m able to choose which publications to get content from. I also create separate categories to keep everything organized.
I’ll usually take a few minutes at the start of the day to read through a few articles. This is enough not to get overwhelmed or get sucked into the dreaded content hole for a few hours.
If there is something that might benefit a client, I’ll make a note to send them an email later with a quick, “Hey, I thought you’d want to see this.” or “We should consider trying this out (as part of our strategy).”
Staying on top of what’s going on often yields new ideas that can help your business grow. You’ll just need to remember to take action on what you’ve learned.
Pay Attention to Constructive Feedback
When people reach out with an idea or suggestion to improve their experience, I’ve got three words for you. Listen to them.
Why? Because they’re the ones on the receiving end of your service.
Yes, you know what you have to offer. But there’s always room to improve. So your customer’s feedback is an opportunity to tweak and refine your offerings.
People appreciate knowing you heard what they said.
Recently, I worked on website copy for a client’s new site. As they went through the text, they pointed out certain words like ‘beautiful’ or ‘gorgeous.’ The words felt too generic and didn’t fully represent their business.
So they asked me to come up with different phrases to describe their services and show how their design services increased sales.
Did I huff and puff about this feedback? Nope. It made sense, and I used this as an opportunity to strengthen their copy.
Even better, I managed to use this new copy and expand it into their new social campaign — so…win win.
Don’t be a Yes Man (or Woman)
The old saying about the client is always right is wrong. Yep, I said it.
In my previous life as a graphic designer, I was a ‘yes woman.’ I did everything possible to avoid ruffling any feathers.
Whenever a client — or boss — would say something I knew 100% would do more harm than good, the answer was, “Yes, that’s a great idea. Let’s do it.”
This was detrimental to my business relationships because I wasn’t serving my clients. I was only telling them what they wanted to hear.
Even worse, I was allowing the client to walk all over me because I wasn’t standing behind my ideas. They didn’t respect me.
Now that I know better, I do better. When my clients bring up an idea that brings up a red flag, I’ll make a friendly suggestion to get them back on track.
You can do this too. The key, though, is to do this in a way that doesn’t come off as harsh.
Offering a “Have you thought about…?” or “I get what you’re saying, but does this make sense for [the result]?” tops people in their tracks.
Questions like these force people to take a step back and work through their rationale. They often find their idea was driven by emotion, not logic.
You aren’t being the bad guy by point out a different approach. You’re delivering value to customers and serving as a partner to them.
Be of Service, Not Sales
Setting the tone for how people see your business starts with the first interaction. You want that first interaction to be sincere.
If the focus is on sales and profits, people will notice and see you as yet another commodity.
The same is true even after they become your customer. You want to show your value by providing service that goes above and beyond.
For instance, when I’m researching projects, if I come across something that sparks an idea for my clients, I’ll tell them about it.
More often than not, they’ll not only appreciate the advice but ask me to implement it. I’m providing value-added benefits without any strings attached. It works out in the end.
When your business is service based, people come to you for solutions. The more positive results you provide, the more they’ll trust and value your expertise.
So no need for hard sales tactics. We owe it to the customer and our business to be better than that.
Summing It Up
Building customer loyalty and earning respect involves creating value at every turn. This doesn’t mean being a mindless order taker.
Nor do you have to discount your services.
It means empowering yourself, as a business owner to push the limits of what you offer.
You have the opportunity to go the extra mile for customers and exceed their expectations.
Not once in a blue moon, but every day.
Incorporating even a few of these small steps will help position you as value-driven business customers respect.
What other ways do you deliver value to customers?