This month is sweetest month, the month where love is in the air. Since it’s all about love, I thought I’d give you reasons to fall in love with your business again and show some love to your customers.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll give you a few tips and tools to help you show the love and get a little love in return.
First up, love thy customers. Besides the ideas that you transform into something real and tangible in the world, your customers are the lifeblood of your business. So it makes sense that you be fair and loving to them by giving them the tools to be fair and loving in return.
So how do you do that? I do that with systems. Specifically my invoicing and customer service systems. And sprinkling in a little bit of expectations.
Before we dive into the big stuff, let’s talk about managing expectations. This is super important. From the first communication, you want to let your customers (current, former and future customers)… you want to let them know what to expect.
For example, you want your future customers to know what your processes are. How to contact you. How schedule appointments. What forms of communication are preferable and how long it will take you to respond. How to buy from you (that’s a biggie!). You see where I’m going with this, right?
For your current customers, it’s a little more of the same. You want to reiterate all the things that you communicated to them when they were a future customer… and more. Do you have a separate “customer only” phone number or email for them? Reconfirm what they get when they work with you and how they get it. If it’s a physical product, when will it be shipped? If it’s a virtual product, where do they go to login? And for all, how do they contact you for support?
Nobody likes to talk about leaving when they are still in the glow of a new project but it’s necessary. I know we all wish customers will stay forever but in the event that they find some greener grass… we have to give them the escape hatch. How does a customer let you know that it’s time for them to move on. Do they need to give you some sort of notice? Does it need to be in writing? Can they email you or leave you a voicemail?
Managing expectations is a system in itself but once you have it documented and implemented, it will make the workflow for your team run smoothly and it will make it easier for you to build momentum with your customer. Most would refer to this as their CRM (client relationship management) system but sometimes words and titles get in the way so I decided not to lead with that “big” name for this common sense system. 😉
Next up – Invoicing System. If there is the smallest hope that you can automate this piece of your business, I implore you to do so. Having this automated will take your mind off of collecting money and let you get back to the business of serving your customers.
In the event that you have to do it manually, try to use something like Freshbooks to send the invoice to your customer. And also make it a habit. Put on your calendar when you’re going to compile and invoice your customers. Are you going to process invoices weekly or monthly? Whatever you decide, make a decision… commit to it and put on your calendar so that you can do it consistently. (And take the extra step of monitoring your outstanding invoices – see Account Receivable 101)
If you want a little automation in your life (especially if you need to do some recurring services), I suggest using an invoicing product and make sure that it integrates with your accounting software (to make your accountant happy). A few accounting packages include invoices, so you can have it all in one package.
There are quite a few cloud-based software packages that I recommend to do just that such as Freshbooks, Wave Apps and Xero Accounting. Some are more robust than others but that’s another post for another day.
Customer Service System
A healthy business is built on happy customers. So make it a habit of having great customer service.
I have to admit that this has been a work in progress around here (all of there of these systems). We’ve been spending some time working on creating, implementing and tweaking all of these systems. So here goes, the final system… Customer Service.
This one can be the most common sense system but the toughest to implement. Especially as we start building out our teams… trying to divide up who does what among the members. But at the end of the day… customer service is EVERYONE’S job on the team. (And that leads to another area where we need to manage expectations – this time with our team/staff members).
So here goes. Your customer service system can be super simple or super complex. For a small business owner just starting out, my suggestion is that it be a simple as possible. You don’t want to have it be too complicated. With complications come obstacles and hurdles. If you make the system too complicated, it will be more difficult to implement (hurdle) and difficult to maintain (hurdle, hurdle). Sooooo again, keep it simple.
Simple like – give your customers a special email address like support@yourURL.com and forward that to your project management system to a project that your entire team has access to. If you want to take it up a notch, you can even assign a day to each person on the team. When it’s their day, they are to monitor the support project and answer the emails for the day.
Or if want to be a little more fancy, you could use a helpdesk cloud system like HelpScout, RhinoSupport or FreshDesk. (Note: I have not used any of these but I hear great things about them. I use the simple system I described above, forwarding the support emails to my support project in Asana).
How do you show love and appreciation for your customers? If you’ve made it this far, you know what I think… I think you do it by making it super easy for them to work with you and get the most out of your products and services.
Using that definition, how do YOU make the most of your customer relationships? Let me hear it in the comments below.
Until next time,
Note: A few other posts for you to check out. Enjoy!