If you work in the service industry, you've probably had your fair share of eye-rolling, blood boiling, disheartening moments. I know we have!
But, often the annoyance isn’t really about our customers. It’s about us. Because, at some point, we’ve said ‘yes’ when we should have said ‘no’, or didn’t set clear enough expectations, or misjudged how long a task will take.
When something goes wrong, we work on figuring out how to avoid it in the future, and often that boils down to refining our customer process or creating a new process to follow.
I love learning how other businesses work myself, so today I thought I'd give you a rundown of some of the systems and processes we’ve set up over the years to create smoother, more streamlined workflows for us and our customers.
1. We focus on fit
Some customers just won’t be the right fit for us. And, being able to identify and deter them upfront not only saves our time and energy, but theirs too. The wrong ‘fit’ may be someone who we can’t achieve results for or won’t benefit from what we do. Or, they might simply be someone who doesn’t align with our working style or values.
The longer we’re in business, the faster we’re able to spot those who aren’t the right fit. But, there are also some other ways we deter those who aren’t going to benefit from our offering.
Setting realistic expectations
On our website, and in our first meeting, we’re always clear about what we do and the type of results we can help people to achieve so the expectations are really clear. And, if we can’t achieve the results our potential customers need, we’ll point them in the direction of an expert who can.
Helping them self-identify if they’re not a good fit
As well as connecting with people who ARE the right fit to work with us, our website content is also designed to help people recognise when our offering is NOT for them. It’s the reason we share visible ‘starting at’ pricing, and information about our availability and processes.
On our invaluable book page, we also explicitly list out who the book isn’t for, so we can help people make the right decision about their purchase.
2. We streamline tasks
When a task is too complicated or time-consuming it won’t get done. Simplifying and streamlining tasks for our customers helps to keep the project moving and is less of a burden on their time.
The back and forth process of trying to figure out when someone is available is time-consuming for everyone. We use Calendly so our clients can book time directly into our calendar at a time when we’re free.
Paying an invoice shouldn’t be difficult. We use Xero which allows our customers to pay via EFT or credit card.
When you’re sending emails back and forth things can get lost in transit, which is why we like having a collaborative workspace we can use. We’ve dabbled with a few different platforms, like Asana (which we still use for project management internally) and Dubsado, but we currently use a simple setup in Google Drive which works really well.
3. Keep them in the loop
It doesn't matter if the end product is a masterpiece, if the process to create it was a headache, it can completely taint a customer experience. Our industry gets a bad rap for flaky contracts and poor communication, and after my own experiences with designers like this, I’m determined to make sure our customers are never left wondering what they signed on for.
We like to do a bit of work upfront to work out our customer’s requirements and give them upfront pricing. All of this is bundled into an agreement that outlines what our customers are responsible for (client obligations), what we’ll be doing (scope of work), what they’ll receive at the end of the project (deliverables), pricing and timeframes. From both your perspective and your customer’s perspective, this document is a must-have to avoid any misunderstanding.
We know that few people actually read the fine print in our agreement (or any legal agreement!), so we created a simpler document that outlines what our customers can expect when they work with us. This includes processes for how to get in touch with us, how often they’ll hear from us, how to give feedback and when payments are due.
Sharing step-by-step instructions
Even though our processes are in our agreement and welcome pack, we still guide our customers every step of the way, mostly via email. We share what we’re working on currently, and some short bullet points about what's happening next. If there are any action items for them, these are also highlighted. In these types of emails, formatting is everything. We use bullets, bolding and highlighting to make emails easy to read when quickly skimming and scanning.
While this might seem really simple and obvious, there are still so many service providers who don’t keep their customers in the loop, which means they’re left wondering what’s going on. Make it a priority to communicate regularly and clearly, even if it's just to say 'I'm working on it".
“You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.” — James Clear
If your goal is growth, and especially if you think you'll be hiring additional team members in the future, you'll need to have a set of systems in place that will allow you to maintain a consistent, stellar experience as you scale.
So, what does your customer process look like? Is there anything you could do to create a better experience for you and your customers? Let me know in the comments! If you liked this post and want to see more like it, let me know! I'd love to hear about the kind of posts that you love to read. And, if you know someone who'd be interested in this post, don't forget to share it!