10 Ways to Make Your Customers or Clients Feel Important
by C.S. Clarke, Ph.D.
1. Remember to smile when you see them, no matter what else you are doing, thinking or feeling.
You might be on the phone with another client who is dissatisfied, so you are frowning. You might be reading a letter that has you looking worried. You might have just had a corrective interview with an employee. It's alright if you still have a serious, worried or angry expression on your face when a client or customer walks in. But their presence should cause an immediate transformation of your face from "sad to glad." Your client/customer should always get the impression that whatever else is going on, you are happy to see them.
In some instances, as in when something sad or painful is happening in the client/customer's life, you will want to make sure the smile is welcoming but also empathetic toward his or her own state. Learn how to smile different kinds of smiles.
2. Return calls and emails promptly.
Even if you don't have anything new to tell them. Even if the job isn't finished. Even if you have bad news. Nothing alienates clients/customers more than feeling ignored. Keeping them "in the loop" makes them feel esteemed.
3. Don't make them call you.
If you want to double or triple the effect of returning messages promptly, become known for checking in with your clients/customers regularly when you are working on something with them. This is an extraordinary "keeping in the loop" gesture that few professionals or business people think to do. You don't have to do it by personally calling every time. You can simply have staff do it for you by phone or email. For example, I know dentists who have their staff check in with patients the day after any procedure to see how they are recovering and find out if they need anything else.
This kind of attention is not a billable event. It is client/customer relations. (Unless, of course, the client turns it into a consultation that asks for more than the quick update you intended.)
4. Remember their names and the names of their significant others, if you know them, as well as a few personal details.
Like lovers, if you get distracted and call them by the wrong name, your clients/customers are going to get a most unfortunate impression. If you remember their names -- including details like they prefer to be called by their middle name -- and especially if you use their name a few times in conversation -- they will love you for it. A person's name is the most attention-getting verbal device known to man. (Well, positive attention. Shouting can do the job, but it won't get you the kind of attention you want.)
If you take notes every time you meet, be sure to get little details you can add to subsequent conversations that show you listen and remember. Review your notes before each meeting, if you have scheduled meetings. For example, a psychologist pieces together the material from each client session to put together a coherent story of the client's life. When something comes up in a later session, the psychologist can say, "Oh, yes that's the time you and your wife went to..." Not only does it give the impression you care, the impression is accurate.
5. Be on time.
No matter how high the quality of your work, no matter how polite, considerate and charming you are otherwise, being late is aggravating beyond words. If you keep them waiting, whether waiting for you to meet them or for a promised delivery, your clients/customers will be angry. Period. Even if you have a good excuse and they overlook it and forgive you, you have damaged the relationship.
If you are consistently on time for meetings or deliver the promised services/products on time, your clients/customers will believe you to be reliable and trustworthy. And they will believe you value them.
6. Be truly attentive.
When a client/customer comes in, stop what you are doing and pay attention to them. Sleep your computer, face your client/customer, turn off your cell phone, turn off the ringer on your desk phone. Show you are listening to what they say by taking notes, asking questions and giving feedback. Learn the process known as "active listening," and practice it. This is the kind of attention every kid wants from his/her parents. Give it to your clients/customers.
7. Show that you value their ideas and input -- even if you disagree with them or cannot use them.
Not every idea is workable, but to it's author, it is invaluable. It is a product of his/her creativity. Acknowledge the value. Discuss the idea or feedback. If you can't explain why you can't or won't use it, agree it give it a try of some sort that won't damage your work product. Always remember this: Each and every person believes he is right, even when he is wrong.
If your client/customer is wrong, help him come to that conclusion. But be very careful how you show someone he is wrong or mistaken. A great deal of pride is involved.
8. Have a follow up system, even if follow up isn't required.
Marketers know that half of the sale is often in the follow-up. Sometimes a simple variation of a "thank you for being my customer" note does everything necessary to confirm the client/customer's good feelings about what you've done for him or what he bought from you. And will bring him back again for more. Other times, especially in businesses and services which are needed only occasionally, it is good client/customer relations to follow up with birthday cards, anniversary of service cards, etc. What's customary in your line of work? What kind of follow up, on what schedule, would make the client/customer remember the good feelings of your last transaction and continue to feel that transaction was valued?
9. Give them something extra.
A freebie or a little something extra that isn't advertised or expected can go a long way in making the client/customer feel esteemed. For example, I know a custom slipcover maker who often makes a matching set of toss pillows to go with a sofa cover he's made. His customers are thrilled with the "extra," not merely because it's free but because it is extra attention and care.
10. Don't be casual with them.
There's a difference between being an easy-going person who is comfortable to deal with and being casual. Casual words and behaviors can seem disrespectful at times, regardless of your intentions. Use conventional terms of address and respect for your clients/customers, no matter how well you know them. A certain amount of informality is permissible, such a calling clients/customers by their first names when it's obvious you have the kind of relationship that calls for that. But never forget the value of good manners -- even your Mom wants you to have good manners with her. Also, you benefit from your own good manners because most people return good manners in kind. Which makes the relationship easier for you as well.
C.S. Clarke, Ph.D. is a psychologist/coach who publishes Superperformance.com: Human Performance and Achievement Resources, providing a wide range of content and tools for improving human performance and productivity. Dr. Clarke also publishes EverydayDelight.com, a website on positive psychology, positive thinking and everyday happiness. Superperformance® is a trademark.