Sure… you may have all the skills in the world, have a wiz-bang polished and perfect website, have a brain the size of Australia, and be able to type standing on your head while bathing your 3 year old twins in a blackout, but without solid communication skills and a commitment to being accountable and responsible to back you up, it’s really worth nothing!
I can’t overstate this enough!
I recently read some interesting posts in response to a colleague’s article about Australian businesses utilising offshore VA support, and the reasons behind it. One comment from someone who utilises offshore contractors was an eye-opener in terms of the deficiencies it brought to light in our Australian based industry. She wrote: “The majority of local interviewees don’t make it through – they are late, don’t send the documentation on time, are unable to justify their fees etc and constantly take everything for granted – because they needed to drop off their kids, their camera wasn’t working, they had a meeting run over, their baby got sick, they didn’t see my meeting invitation
DING, DING, DING…. are the alarm bells ringing for you too? Can you HEAR what is being said here?
Want to know what you can do to make sure this NEVER happens to you and your business?
Well, it’s easy really. It’s called taking responsibility, being accountable in your business, and having a commitment to communication that WORKS. The old adage, “If it has to be, it’s up to me” rings true here.
Here’s some practical tips that will help… put them into practice and watch your clients turn from ‘ho hum’ to absolutely raving fans!
• Be Your Word. Simply put, this means if you say you will do something by a certain date/time or whatever, then DO IT! If necessary, under promise and over deliver, but please, please, PLEASE, deliver on time!
• Communicate, Communicate, Communicate. Agree on the best method of communication with the client (is it a phone call, text message, tweet, Facebook Messenger, email) and then do this without fail;
• Fess Up. If you make a mistake, fess up. Your client will ultimately respect you for it, and as long as you don’t continue to make the same mistake over and over again, life will be sweet. I always have the “I’m not perfect and WILL make mistakes” discussion up-front with them. I let them know that I am human, but I will always let them know if I’ve stuffed up, and will rectify issues if they arise as soon as humanly possible. The very worst thing you can do when you know you’ve made an error is to ignore it… and hope that no one notices. Or even worse than that is giving your clients worthless excuses – Just DON’T.
Being responsible is about acting with integrity. Do this and you will build trust and respect in your relationship with your client – I guarantee it!
• Work in your Skills Area. This means, if you don’t know how to do something, don’t say you can, and don’t experiment on your client (unless they’ve agreed to invest in some training, or are happy for you to muddle through something you are not sure about). I regularly outsource tasks that I don’t have expertise in. It saves the client time and money, ensures that the job is done correctly and on time, and keeps the client happy!
• Business-Like Presentation. Always communicate with your clients in a business-like manner. That means taking care to ensure your grammar and spelling are correct and your messages are succinct and clear. If your agreed communication method is via text message, then think about using dot points and breaking up into easy to read paragraphs, and ALWAYS use correct grammar/spelling and not abbreviations, no matter how tempting.
• Treat Your Clients’ Clients like GOLD. Communicate with your clients’ clients in the very same way as you treat your clients… with good manners and respect, attention to detail, and clarity. Remember – they are your clients’ source of income. Don’t ever lose sight of this fact!
• Communicate Your Availability. Clearly identify with your clients when you will be available… and then be responsible enough to let them know when you’re going to be away from your desk, or get called away BEFORE THE FACT… not after going AWOL, and not with a story about why…. “Oh sorry, I forgot to tell you but I decided to go out all day to catch up for a coffee with my daughter’s preschool teacher and then took the puppy to puppy school, and then got so tired on the way back that I had to pull over on the side of the road and have a nanna nap and I just couldn’t do any work.”
Read this carefully, and read it over and over again until you really GET it: The client doesn’t care, they just want their work done and, to be brutally honest, don’t give a rat’s what happened, no matter how dramatic. All they see is that you’ve let them down.
• Be Proactive. Surprisingly easy to do when you put yourself in your client’s shoes. Ask yourself the question: “What would my client think about this”, and consider the repercussions of what you are doing. Are there any questions that the client might have that you could pre-empt by providing an explanation before they ask the question? Is there another step or action you could take to make the client’s life easier?
• Be Prepared to Go the Extra Mile. While it may not be necessary or part of your written agreement, putting in a little extra just to see your client happy and looked after is something that makes a HUGE difference in your working relationship with them. I guarantee that this extra touch will take you a long way in your business.