I believe a lot of small businesses lack adequate customer service. This is especially true in the freelance market, but its also apparent in local mom and pop establishments.
Just yesterday I went to a new restaurant in town that has reopened itself under a new name, with a new menu but with the same owners. The inside of the place looks wonderful, the food was great, but the customer service experience had a lot to be desired. When I walked in there was a sign to “seat yourself”, but no clean tables were available. I stood there for several minutes with waitresses flying by and not saying a word to me. Finally, I flagged one down and asked for a table to be cleared so I could sit down.
Not acknowledging the customer is a customer service issue, but it is likely to be overlooked by the restaurant owners at this point in time because they currently have the customers in the seats. Most new restaurants, in our area at least, have all the customers they can handle when they first open just due to the newness. People will try the place out and see how it is. After this initial boon, customers will return at a slower rate as long as everything met their expectations. If customers are being overlooked during this initial opening period, they may feel slighted and not return to the business.
I feel that I’m fairly forgiving when it comes to other businesses because I know how difficult it is to provide a high-level of customer service time and time again, but not everyone has this same perspective. If these restaurant owners take a closer look at their business, I believe they would see that by not catering to even their waiting customers, they’re losing future business because it could very well leave a bad taste in the mouth of the potential customer. In this particular situation, the problem could easily be solved with basic communication. A great example of this basic acknowledgment is Moe’s Southwest Grill. When you enter Moe’s, you are immediately greeted by at least one employee – “Welcome to Moe’s!” This simple greeting lets the customer know that they’ve been acknowledged, and that they will be serviced shortly.
Keeping the example of the restaurant in mind, let’s take a look at freelancers. Freelancers work in projects much like a restaurant works in meals. A client comes in, has their experience and leaves. If the experience they had was positive, they’re more likely to be back. If the experience leaves much to be desired, they won’t be back. Once you have went to the trouble of getting a customer, it is a lot less effort and expense to keep that customer than to procure another new one.
Just as communication is the resolution to the restaurant issue, it is the same resolution to a freelancers issue with clients. Not just when the client walks in the door but throughout their entire experience with you. Friendly communication can go a long way, especially if things go south in a project.
But also remember not all clients are the same. Some are harder to please than others and some you won’t be able to please at all. But keeping the lines of communication open throughout the project sure makes it more likely that those clients will be back for more.