Creating an amazing client experience is important whether you’re a lawyer in Atlanta, a photographer in Dallas or a big, fake wedding planner nationwide. Your client experience is what sets you apart from others in your location and industry, so it’s important to be consistent and always provide the highest quality of experience for your client. But how do you do this? What if you don’t even know what a client experience should look like?
Here are 10 ways to create an exceptional client experience, no matter your industry.
1. Create a website that works.
If you’re running a reputable business in this century, your clients are going to expect you to have a website, even if (especially if!) you’re a one-woman photographer boss lady. The one thing that’s possibly worse than not having any website is having a terrible one.
Your website needs to do two things at a minimum:
- Give your clients a way to get in touch with you, and
- Convey your service in a clean, user-friendly manner
If you don’t have your own website yet, finish reading this article, and then get to it! You can have one in an hour with Squarespace.
2. Set your policies in a visible area.
One thing that will ruin your customer’s experience before they even get to work with you is your failure to have clear-cut policies in place about your services. You must have things like a cancellation policy, an inclement weather policy, and a no-show policy. These are essential to avoid hurt feelings and frustration (on both ends) later in the relationship.
But having policies is only half the battle—your clients must be aware of your policies. The best way to do this is by integrating them into your client contract so your client knows right from the get-go what to expect when working with you.
3. Spend some time crafting your signature elements.
What will your clients remember about their experience with you? What will they tell their friends and business BFFs when they need a coach, wedding planner, photographer, or other service professional? Will they recommend you first? Give you a raving review and mention something crazy above-and-beyond that you did for them?
Spend some time crafting the experience that you want clients to have. If you don’t know where to start, think about the experience YOU wish you had with a yoga teacher, photographer, event planner, florist, etc. Get out there and see what other people in your industry are doing well and what they are doing poorly. Then improve on all of it with your unique touch.
4. Define your signature offering.
Speaking of signature elements, what will be your signature offering? What is the one service clients will keep coming back for each week, month or year? You don’t have to get it perfect, you just have to start. Start with an offering and see what your clients like about it, and what they don’t. Keep improving your clients’ experience by getting feedback from them, either at the end of your session (not the best way) or by surveying them 1-2x per year via your newsletter.
5. Look to your community.
I am part of the Rising Tide Society, and agree with their founding premise that when we support each other, we accomplish a lot more than if we were to be in constant competition with each other. There are certainly enough clients to go around for everyone who truly wants them in your industry, and new clients are being created every day by innovative providers in all of our fields.
Just think back to 1995—had you ever heard of boudoir photography? Senior portraits? Even engagement sessions? All of these are relatively new additions to the photography industry and all of these categories have created a deluge of new clients for all photographers—not just the few in the beginning who thought outside the box.
6. Take a step back.
Every once in awhile, take a step back from your business and look at it through the lens of the client. Where are your shortcomings? Are you always pushing back scheduled meetings to later times? Or taking days or even weeks to respond to emails? Are you always consistently 10 minutes early?
Only you can answer these questions. These are merely a teaser list to get you started. It doesn’t matter if you think of everything, but at the end of a 30 minute brainstorming session taking a look back at your business, you should be able to come up with 2-3 things you can cut out of your business or improve for your clients.
7. Look for ways to delight your clients.
Zappos is a favorite case study of business schools for a good reason. There’s a lot they get right when it comes to customer service. For example, they are constantly looking for ways to delight their clients, er, customers.
One way they do this is by expediting shipping on certain orders, or their famous billion dollar loss party, where all items on 6pm.com were listed at less than $50 (even some items that retail for $2000+). Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh made the unconventional decision to let it go, and shipped all orders as scheduled—even the $2,000+ goods that had been purchased for $49.
I’m not advocating you throw money away on clients—there are lots of great ways to delight your clients. For example, when I was a yoga instructor for a hot minute, one of my students was 41 weeks pregnant. She got a foot rub in savasana. Did everyone? No. But if you’re 41 weeks pregnant and making the effort to do a yoga practice, you are going to get a ton of extra attention from me.
These days, I'm all about writing random note of encouragement—in addition to the standard thank you note. Born out of my stationery obsession, this is a great way to surprise someone at a low cost and with just a little bit of time invested.
8. Use your friends.
Use your friends to be the all-seeing eye for your business. Give them a private coaching session or shoot a family photo session and see what they have to say about working with you. Even if they’re friends with you, if they have never worked with you before, there will be a palpable shift in the dynamic at some point if both parties are taking it seriously.
You can also use your friends to find out what their experience is on your website. Give them some simple tasks to do, like email you, book a session with you, or find out more information about your services and see how long and complicated it is for them to do so. Ask them what they like and don’t like about their website and try to make improvements from there.
9. Consistency is key.
Clients will expect you to be you, to be you, to be you, all the way through and through. If you teach a nice serene yoga class and then they run into you in the grocery store, where you’re rude and in a hurry, how do you think they will feel the next time they come to your class? Will they even come back to your class? It’s unlikely, and it’s why being consistent is so essential. The key is not to mold who you are to fit your business persona, the key is to fit your business persona to fit you.
10. Own your mistakes.
If you are doing something, the chances that you'll make a mistake increases proportionally. It’s not a bad thing, it’s just something we have to understand and accept. If you make a mistake like forgetting to send them an important document, apologize, then own the mistake instead of blaming it on traffic, your printer, your dog, etc. It is much more professional and it’s okay to be human. Your client will make mistakes too and leave you hanging sometimes—it just happens and it is a reminder to forgive others when they err.
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