When companies engage your services, many of them look to you for more than just the services you offer. Business guidance and “reality checks” should also play an important part of each project. Here’s what you can do to offer your customers quality service that will keep them coming back time and again.
1- Keep a list of good companies that you can use or recommend for portions of the project that require outside assistance. You don’t want to be scrambling to find help when you’re in the middle of a project. Having qualified sources enables you to respond quickly to your clients’ needs.
2- Prepare a “best of breed” list of products and/or solutions (depending on the type of business you are in) so that you can recommend the appropriate one to the client, along with reasons why they should use your recommendation.
3- Don’t take on any work for which you even slightly question your ability to deliver. When you don’t deliver 100% of what they expect, not only will you lose a customer, but you may gain a bad reputation.
4- Manage the client’s expectations by talking to them regularly, even every day if necessary. Do this proactively. Don’t wait until they call you for a status check.
5- Take a “big picture” look at what the client is trying to do rather than just doing what they ask. Walk through the client’s project plan, business model, or processes — whatever is appropriate in your line of business — to see if it makes sense to you. Offer suggestions on how they might improve what they are trying to do rather than just doing exactly what they ask (this, by the way, will score you points with the client in ways you can’t even imagine!).
6- Question issues that may cause problems later from an implementation perspective. People typically don’t want to just hire you because you’re cheaper. They usually want a firm that can ask them questions they don’t know to ask, plus provide them with business guidance to reassure them that they are going about it the right way.
One of our firm’s clients wanted to build a web-based community for a niche market. Initially, they were trying to do every: chat groups, e-commerce, informative articles, audio/video clips, email, and more. However, by talking with them, we determined that doing all of this might be difficult at the current stage of their business. If they had millions of dollars in funding, doing it all would have been reasonable, but our discussion encouraged them to think through what made sense to do first. Then, as the site grew, they could phase in other items. This approached not only saved them money, but gave them reasons to send out press releases to get more publicity as they added new features.
As you grow your business, make sure that you are prepared to handle issues before they become sticky issues.