A big part of working freelance is setting your own standards and goals. Whether it’s the hours you work or the way you approach your marketing, you have a great deal more flexibility than full-time employees who have to stick to company policies and strict operational procedures.
One of the areas in which you have full flexibility is that of customer service. It is up to you to set your own standards and treat your customers how you see fit. Good customer service can lead to increased client loyalty. However, many freelancers don’t take the time to think about their customer service ethos and how it could be improved. That’s not to say they don’t deliver good customer service, just that they don’t make a point of proactively analysing this area of their service delivery.
This is a shame, as making your service stand out from the competition by delivering superb customer service can not only result in you winning and retaining more clients, but also in you being able to charge more than your competitors as well. After all, you get what you pay for and many clients are happy to pay a little extra for a service that consistently exceeds their expectations. As such, whether you provide a professional translation service or earn your keep as a freelance dog walker, why not take the time today to think about your customer service and how you could improve it? Here are some helpful tips to get you started.
Customer service basics
Being helpful and friendly are the essential building blocks of good customer service skills. Your clients should feel comfortable in approaching you and feel assured of a warm reception when they do. This applies even when you’re having a super stressful day!
When you answer the phone, for example, do so with a smile and calm voice. It’s surprisingly effective in ensuring that each and every call you take starts off on the right foot. If you answer the phone by snapping “Yes?” in a stressed tone, the caller will instantly feel they are imposing and be less at ease with you.
Your clients need to know what they can expect from you, whether it relates to your rates, your working days/hours, how soon you will deliver their work or any arrangements for cover while you’re on holiday. The more information your clients have, the more confident they will feel in the service that you provide to them. This is key to ensuring that they don’t feel anxious about what to expect or when.
Of course, once you’ve established these ground rules, it’s then up to you to go ‘above and beyond’ when the mood takes you. If, for example, a client emails you late in the evening, they are probably not expecting a reply until the next day. Thus you have a chance to exceed their expectations by replying sooner. Even if that reply is just a quick acknowledgement and a promise to reply in full the next day, the client will be pleasantly surprised by your level of service.
Clarity is important when it comes to invoicing as well. If a client’s bill is going to be larger than usual, it can be helpful to prepare them for this in advance, rather than it coming as a surprise when you issue the invoice.
Sometimes, you have to tell a client that they can’t have what they want. However, doing so can still fall within the remit of providing good customer service – it’s all about how you deliver the news. If you explain your reasons for refusing the request and offer a solution, then saying ‘no’ can still result in a positive experience for the client. You can show that, even while you couldn’t meet their initial request, you’ve still helped them to achieve their goal.
One failsafe policy of good customer service is to over deliver. Whether it means beating a deadline you set, delivering a piece of work that comes in under budget or going the extra mile in some other way, over-delivering is a sure fire way to end up with happy clients who appreciate all that you do for them.
Don’t over commit
Avoiding over committing is equally important. If you commit to too much, you’ll end up stressed out, missing deadlines (or working ridiculous hours to meet them) and running yourself ragged. There’s also far more potential for you to disappoint your clients if you don’t leave yourself enough time to get everything done, as you’ll either have to miss a deadline or take shortcuts when it comes to the quality of your work. Neither of these is the way to build client loyalty through good customer service!
Customer service is a key part of successful freelancing. Doing it well can set you apart from the competition, ensuring that you have loyal clients who use your services time and again. You might even be able to put your rates up to reflect your superior service.
Take some time to consider your own approach. What could you do better? What do you already do that provides your clients with an outstanding service? Leave a comment to share your experiences.