Article by Paul Winans
In this month’s Cutting Edge article, 30-year contracting veteran and professional service industry business consultant Paul Winans breaks down five success secrets for service businesses. This article is written from the perspective of a contactor, but these principles apply to your business.
As a business owner and a customer/client of other businesses, I am always paying attention to what makes me feel well-served. Sometimes I feel that way because things went well throughout the whole relationship. Other times it is because of how the service provider responded to a problem.
Here are five points, which if paid attention to, will make your business more likely to be successful.
1. Set Clear Expectations
Seems obvious, right? However, most of us rush to get started in delivering what we sell instead of getting very clear with the client about what will be done, who is responsible for making it happen, and by when it will be done.
Without these clear expectations being carefully established, the professional relationship is like gambling: It might work out well, but probably will not.
Slow down to go fast by taking the time to set you and your client up to feel successful when everything is all done.
2. Communicate Often
I mentioned the importance of clear expectations being set before anything else happens. Equally as important is referencing those expectations throughout the working relationship.
Why? Most of us sometimes behave like children. By that I mean we might try again and again to get our way, even when we agreed to a scenario where we were not going to get everything we wanted. We bring up our desire over and over, hoping to wear down who we are working with.
As a service provider, you must help your client remember, understand, and respect what was agreed to before the work started.
Gentle constant reminders backed up by the summary emails you send after every client interaction help everyone stay on course.
Because you are working with humans even if you do the above there will come a time where a compromise might be needed.
I can remember circumstances when we were working with a client that merited compromising. Let’s say the client’s budget has been maxed in the planning and scoping process. You and your company have done a good job getting input from all the trade contractors about the condition of the entire house, not just the work area, with the goal of no surprises once the project starts.
Early in the job, some condition is found that you and your company has never seen before. The client is frustrated when presented with this information.
What might you do? Explain the situation, provide the absolute lowest cost for the change order, and hear what the clients say. If after some back-and-forth they still are not pleased, suggest that in the interests of moving forward you will split the cost with them.
Know that I am not suggesting making this a habit. However, by going a bit beyond what might be expected of you, the client has a hard time seeing you as an enemy. In fact, you are sharing in his pain.
4. Completion Means Completion
Even if the client says they love your “guys,” what they love even more is having their project done.
By “done,” I mean 100% with no lingering issues. You have received final payment. You have delivered a thank you gift to show your appreciation for their business. You have done a download with them about what went right and what could have gone better.
In other words, there is no reason for you and the client to speak about their project again.
Remember setting clear expectations early in the relationship? The better job you do at that point, the more likely the client will be happy with you and your company at the end of the project.
I know how hard it is to achieve “done.” The more you and your team focus on making that happen the happier your clients will be, the more business you will have, and the more profitable your business will be.
Happy clients provide you with repeat business and referrals to other potential clients.
Too many businesses forget about their clients once the project is done. In fact, the end of the project should be the beginning of a long-term relationship.
At the very least stay in touch with them personally. If you sold the job, find some reason to “touch” the client at least every three months. It could be a note card, an email, an invitation to a meal or the like, or a notice about a company event.
The more you personalize your communication, the more special the client will feel. And the more special they feel the more likely they will tell their friends about what a remarkable company you have.
None of what I am suggesting costs a lot of money. In fact, if you keep these points in mind and deliver on all the promises the company made, you will be very successful.
It is not rocket science. To be inspired keep in mind all the sales and service experiences you have had. Which ones made you feel smart and why? Do what you like, and your clients will love it.
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