Before my days of designing the perfect gift, my time was spent planning perfect lessons and implementing them in a way that actively engaged students in learning through methods of best practice. That’s right, I was a teacher! A fourth grade teacher in Virginia to be exact! So when I found out that February’s Rising Tide topic was “Client Relationships,” I started planning a lesson to engage my fellow entrepreneurs! Ready to learn how to create positive relationships with your clients through the best experiences possible? Make sure you’re ready to take notes because class is in session!
Before we moved into learning about what I consider to be the “Six Phases of a Client’s Experience,” I encouraged everyone to think about the following:
What area of client relationships is a weakness for you?
What area of client relationships is a strength for you?
What are some ways you’ve been “wowed” by others when you are the client?
What has caused you to be an unhappy client/customer?
Thinking about what keeps us going back to our favorite businesses or has turned us away for life can be a great place to start when planning the best possible experience we can offer our clients. The first time someone comes in contact with our businesses is what I consider to be the “Discovering” phase. This could come come in any of the following forms: seeing your work/product from someone else, having cohesive branded social media accounts, responding/interacting on social media, hearing someone else talk about you, how you come up in a Google search, interacting with your website, receiving a business card, seeing/hearing an advertisement, having a clear mission statement & core values, and having a positive community (word of mouth referrals, followers on social media with whom you interact, etc.)
For many of us, social media or our websites are how our clients first learn of us, so I planned an activity to help get some fresh eyes on our online spaces. Everyone was given an envelope and was asked to write their web address and primary social media account on the front. Inside each envelope were guided assessments for other group members to use when going to their accounts.
Everyone passed their envelope to their left. The neighbor who received it went to their website and answered the following questions:
Were you able to find a mission statement?
Is there a cohesive brand presence?
Can you easily navigate their website?
Is their email listed on their contact form?
Do you know what products/services they offer? List them below.
What questions do you have that still need answered?
I kept a timer and everyone had three minutes to answer those questions. We don’t have a lot of time to keep visitors to our websites before they get frustrated and move on to something else, so I didn’t want these peer assessments to have a lot of time, either. After the time was up, the envelope was passed to the left again. A new person received the envelope (-s of each member present). Now we all completed a social media set of questions. They were as follows:
Can you tell what they do/offer right away?
Is there a cohesive brand presence?
Can you get to their website easily?
Do they seem to have a positive community?
Do they interact with their followers?
Below, use three words to describe your experience with their primary social media account.
How could they improve?
We ended up completing three social media assessments and three website assessments for each attendee. We called these their “Valentines.” 🙂 After the activity was over, I gathered all the envelopes and discussed the other phases of a client experience.
The “Introducing” phase would be next when the client actually gets in touch with you. Making sure that your email/phone number is listed on your website, having a user-friendly contact form, and messaging on social media were some of my examples. I think it’s important to have your email listed on your website so that whomever is trying to get in touch with you has email as an option. They may want to send you an attachment and most importantly, they may want to track what they sent you. Contact forms don’t allow that from the senders side. As far as social media messaging goes, I request to be contacted via email to ensure that I reply. Instagram and Facebook are so busy, so if anyone messages me through those apps, I kindly send them my email address. Facebook allows business pages to set auto responses through Messenger (which I have greatly appreciated). I have a friendly reply set-up thanking them for contacting me and letting them know that email is the best way to get a response from me.
“Responding” to your clients is the next phase. This includes how long it takes you to get back to them, messages to confirm purchases/shipment (if you sell products), sending them a welcome packet/brochure, clearly stated contracts, educating them on your hours of operation and personal/business boundaries, communicating through CRMs and canned email responses for efficiency, etc.
Once your client sees that you are who they wish to work with/buy from as you’ve clearly got it all together, then you’re ready to really focus on building a positive relationship with them. The “Relationship Building” phase is where I often help my clients through custom gifting. Gifts can be a major part of this phase, but there are other ways to show appreciation, too! Things like thank you notes, staying in touch until event/next purchase,“wowing” them, and remembering special dates like a birthday or engagement can really lead to positive client relationships.
When it’s finally time to deliver their good/service, how can you really “wow” them? What can you do to make sure you not only met the standard you promised, but even exceeded it? Could you deliver sooner? Could you give them a little more? This would be part of the “Delivery” phase. When I worked at The Mayflower Hotel, the event managers would try to “gift” a suite to a couple if it was available. What an amazing surprise! Is there something like this you can do that will keep them coming back to you/refer you for life?
The last phase (that can often be forgotten) is the “Closure” phase. Do you have an off-boarding process? How do you follow up with clients? Do you ask for reviews or have a loyalty program? Could you send a handwritten thank you note and show case your clients on your blog? Sometimes it’s my clients’ choice to gift during this phase and it’s a wonderful surprise! However you choose to show appreciation to them is up to you, but just remember to put some serious thought into this phase.
After discussing the phases of a client experience and taking time to share tips, attendees received their envelopes to take home and consider. Everyone walked away with a lot to think about on how to improve their clients’ experience, how to build a positive relationships with them, and bellies full of donuts!
Are you a small business owner in the DC metro area who would like to be a part of a community? Join the Rising Tide and our local Tuesdays Together chapter here! And be sure to check out my tips on “Fostering Client Relationships with Branded Gifts” on the Rising Tide blog! I’d love to hear how The Welcoming District can help you love on your clients through branded gifts! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or fill out the contact form to get started!