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Do’s and don'ts of client servicing
Are you a hero to your clients? That’s the question you need to ask. And you need to keep asking it.
When your business revolves around serving clients, it’s a much different proposition than a typical 9-to-5 job where you answer to a manager. Now you’re dealing directly with your clients—the source of your income—every day. There’s a lot more involved, from delivering the services they require, to negotiating pay rates and arranging the billing, to managing the relationship itself.
And like anything else, to do it successfully, there are things you should do and things you shouldn’t do. Let’s run through five do’s and five don’ts of client servicing.
Don’t always say “yes”
In other words, don’t over-commit yourself. People who work in a client-servicing business tend to be of the mindset that they should never say “no” to any new clients or business from existing clients. But saying “yes” to everything can put you in a bad spot.
Understand your limitations and learn how to deal with additional requests that might be too much for you. If you do have to say “no,” make sure your clients appreciate that you have their interests in mind, and that over-extending yourself would result in degrading your current abilities to help them with their needs. You’re not being ungrateful or uncooperative; you’re being responsible.
Do listen first to your clients
This might seem like a no-brainer, but many people are so eager to share their expertise and show clients how they can help them, that they forget to take the time at the outset to listen to what their clients need and want.
You need to have a clear understanding of what they need before you can begin to help them. And that only happens when you start by being a good listener. And that means really listening. Perhaps they’re a new business venture, and they don’t know exactly what they want or need. Let your experience help you listen to what they may not be saying, and be guided by your instincts. Listen and ask questions that help you better understand their needs.
Don’t keep your clients waiting
When it comes right down to it, all that we have is time—and that is especially true in business and professional activities. If you’re attending meetings with your clients, be on time. Don’t keep them waiting, twiddling their thumbs. Maybe they’ll use the time to find someone else to help them.
This applies to communication, too. Be a regular, reliable and proactive communicator. More on that below.
Obviously, professional respect goes both ways. But the reality is, you’re on your client’s time and you’re on their dime. You’re there to help them, not the other way around. Conduct yourself accordingly.
Do take the time to research your client’s industry
It’s very important that you understand your client’s world. If they work in an industry that you’re not completely familiar with, get to know it so you can get a better understanding of the landscape your client is working in, the competition they’re up against, the challenges they face, the changes happening in their industry, and the things they’re trying to accomplish.
Getting to know your client’s industry also means that you’re better able to speak to them in their language, which is crucial. For instance, if they operate in the music industry, you can talk to them about streaming, touring and merchandise revenues and new delivery technologies. If they’re in marketing or advertising, you’ll understand what “media buys” and audience segmentation data are about.
Even if you’re not an industry expert, you’ll be able to let them know that you get what they’re talking about—that you get them. And that’s huge.
Don’t pretend to be a know-it-all
Sure, you know your stuff. You know what you’re doing, and what you have to offer to help your clients. But if during your discussions with your clients, something comes up that you don’t know anything about, don’t act like you do.
If you’re afraid that they won’t be impressed that you don’t know about something, well they’ll be really unimpressed when they find out that you were faking it—essentially lying to them. If you don’t know the answer to your client’s question, just own up to it, but tell them “Let me find out more about that for you”, and then use the moment to start a conversation about the topic. Delve into what they need to know.
No one knows everything. Don’t pretend you do, and risk damaging your client’s trust.
Do always practice honesty
It’s a cliché but it’s true. Honesty is the best policy. If it looks like you’re going to miss a deadline, don’t try to come up with excuses. Just be up-front about it and proactively communicate the situation to your client. Being dishonest will simply damage your credibility and trustworthiness.
This also includes taking ownership of your mistakes. To paraphrase the old adage, to err is human, to own up to it is divine client servicing. We all make mistakes. Just own up to it, learn from it and take steps to ensure it doesn’t happen again. But while you’re at, don’t forget to also own your successes and wins, too!
Don’t mix personal and professional on social media
When it comes to your social media presence, it’s best to practice separation of church and state, so to speak. Keep your personal profiles personal, and your professional channels professional.
The things you share with your friends and family on your Facebook profile, for instance, may not be suitable for clients’ eyes. If you want to espouse your political views or your opinions on controversial topics on social media, keep it to your personal channels. You can have your personal Facebook profile, but keep your professional page to things that relate to your work. Or if you do share personal stuff, make it something that at least shows you in a positive, passionate-about-what-I-do kind of light. A picture of you and friends having a beer after playing in a charity softball tournament? Sure. A photo of you passed out after a night of clubbing? Maybe keep that one for your personal channels—or better yet, delete it altogether.
Do always work to build a lasting relationship with your clients
Finding and landing clients is hard work. So when you have good clients, keeping them should be your priority. Delivering good work is important, of course, but over and above deliverables, you also need to build and nurture long-term relationships with your clients. These are built on things like (as mentioned above) trust, reliability, honesty, communication and rapport. If you have healthy relationships with your clients, the work will follow.
Don’t become too reliant on email
Email is easy and efficient. It’s virtually the de facto form of communication these days. But what’s easiest isn’t always the best choice when it comes to communicating with your clients. There may come a time when an email conversation with your client gets a bit testy, or maybe you simply get a sense that things aren’t being communicated well. It might be time to get on the phone and talk to them directly. For that matter, some clients may prefer more direct communication to electronic messages. Either way, a more personal touch can mean a lot.
Do ask yourself regularly, “What value am I adding?”
One of the ways you can try to nurture a good, long-term relationship with your clients is to always ask yourself what value you’re bringing to their business. How are you helping them to succeed and how are you a partner in their success? What can you do better, what more can you offer them to help them be successful?
Do what you can to make sure they always remember why they hired you. Your clients should always be able to point to the value you bring to their business. When you accomplish that, they’ll always have a reason to keep coming back to you.
Working with clients is so much more than just deliverables. If you keep in mind these things that you should and shouldn’t do, you’ll be better able to build a solid relationship with your clients and consistently be their hero.