FILED IN: Client & Corporate Gifts, Education
Posted By: Jamie Kutchman, Founder
I'm the founder and CEO of a curated gift box business and so you may be shocked to hear me say that client experience isn't just about giving client gifts. Client experience is so much more than that. Gifting is a major component of client experience but it isn't everything. If you fall short during pre-sale, project execution, and post-sale, a gift box (no matter how amazing it is), isn't going to make up for your lack of attention to these other areas.
Here are several things to consider when evaluating your own client experience you offer your clients. Important to note...many of these items are things you do before the sale is even made or the contract is signed. In other words, client experience begins at the very moment someone interacts with your business whether they're a client yet or not.
When potential clients reach out to you, they're excited. They've seen examples of your work on Instagram or Pinterest and feel a connection to what you do. Or chances are, they were referred to you by a friend or colleague and so they arrive at your inquiry form with a higher level of comfort than a random person would. People are busy and when they take time to reach out it means they're interested. And this means they want info NOW. Obviously, there are such things as boundaries and you can't be sitting there ready to answer inquiries 24x7 but know that responding quickly definitely goes a long way in making a good first impression. They're inquiring and essentially saying "I see something I like" and you're showing them the same respect in return.
Everyone knows that implementing business systems is the only way to scale and stay sane. This means using email templates. However, there's nothing worse than reaching out to a brand you're pumped about and getting the oh-so-obvious canned response. You immediately feel that you're no different than the masses, yes? Try to take a moment and personalize your answer back to them just a bit even if the bulk of the email is a template. I don't mean to hate on templates because they are useful and you can't realistically survive without them. They're usually well-written, concise, and deliver info your potential client is hoping to learn about. But on a deeper level, your potential client also wants to know you care right off the bat. Take a moment or two and engage with them on a more personal level. It's not going to kill you to add on a sentence or two on top of your existing template in order to better connect with each and every potential client. Elude to something specific in their inquiry and show genuine interest. It's really as simple as that yet goes a long way!
Anticipating Their Needs
People are busy. When they take time to request info, they want all of the info to be there so they don't have to go back and ask for more. Try to anticipate what they'll be wondering about and include it in what you send them. Including a link to FAQs is a great way to accomplish this above and beyond the standard info you send over. Don't expect them to navigate over to your website to hunt down the FAQ link buried in the footer of your website. Instead, it's right there in the initial info you send for them to dive into the nitty gritty as much or as little as they wish.
Make Things Easy
This is another point about systems. Are you making it easy for clients to retain you for service or buy from your online shop? We use Honeybook for our Custom Gift Design Service contracts and proposals. It's been a TOTAL lifesaver (and timesaver!) over the years. We've tried a few other systems thinking the grass was greener but always immediately migrated right back to Honeybook. Everything is aesthetically pleasing but equally as important, it is easy for clients to read the contract, sign, and pay. There is no way we could juggle the amount of simultaneous custom projects we do without Honeybook. (In fact, use this Honeybook link to join and receive 50% off of your first year, while offer lasts!) Simultaneously, our online shop runs on Shopify and the checkout experience is a drastic improvement over what we had when I first launched the business back in 2014. When I realized how clunky our first checkout experience was and how it was negatively impacting sales and client perception of our brand, I became obsessed with improving it. Once we made the switch, our online sales immediately more than quadrupled. Just as I suspected, introducing a more user-friendly platform made a difference. Again, people are busy and want to get something done and MOVE ON. If your site is difficult to navigate and/or e-commerce checkout is difficult, you're going to lose the sale and it's doubtful they'll ever return.
Focus on Their Problems
When you're talking with clients, don't assume you know why they chose to consider you over someone else. Don't assume you know what they want. Take the time to ask them about their biggest concerns and challenges related to why they're hiring you. Then make sure you go out of your way to focus most heavily on these areas to deliver them exactly what speaks to them the most. Just because you think one particular part of your service is the most critical and deserves the most emphasis doesn't mean that your clients feel the same way. For example, within our gifting service, some clients are most concerned with the aesthetic of the gifts while others are simply concerned that the gifts will show up on time. Some are concerned about us sticking to their budget to the penny while others want us to give them recommendations about what we think will most wow their clients or event guests. Pay attention to their concerns and give your clients the most customized, personalized experience you can within the parameters of your offering.
Always communicate along the way. Even if you sent a document in the beginning of a project that outlines how everything should work, additional emails with updates along the way go a long way. I admit I sound like a broken record when I say "people are busy" but you can bet they don't read every single email. The last thing you want is for them to have to take time out of their day to follow up with you because they're not sure what's happening next. Always let it be you being the one to pro-actively reach out to them versus the other way around!
Set Expectations Accurately
Of everything on this list, this is the most important! Setting expectations along the way will help protect your reputation with the client, even if these conversations aren't always the most fun. We try to do this in the very beginning during our discovery calls with clients. If international shipping on 150 gift boxes to Lake Como (plus the charges to clear customs) is going to be a LOT, I tell them up front even if it means they don't book with us. It does us no good to take the project and then have a disappointed client down the road. Also, if you know a client wants a particular level of design or service and their budget doesn't support their requests, telling them up front will make them respect you. Thing long term rather than short term and realize that to end up with a positive client experience, they must end up getting what they were expecting and negative surprises at the end can ruin everything, even if all else was perfect. Honesty and transparency are always the best policy. Always.
Okay, finally, this is where the gifts come in! Curated gifts are a great way to express appreciation to your clients for trusting you with their business. Be strategic about when you send them. Some people send them at the beginning when a contract is signed while others wait until the conclusion of a project. I think it depends on the nature of what you do and when the gift will have the most impact so there's no one right answer. In addition to gifting though, you can refer your clients to others within your network to help promote their business, offer them incentives to work with you again, and send notes even after their project is over to let them know you're thinking of them and check on the outcomes of your work together. All of these things go a long way.
If you're looking to improve your client experience, the possibilities are endless since it involves looking at each and every way in which potential client and current clients interact with your brand. We hope this list has been helpful in giving you some things to think about! We'd love to hear your feedback. Drop us a comment in this post or reach out here.