Customer service is often considered a prerogative of businesses that have access to a great deal of human and financial resources. While it is true that customer service departments require such resources, it doesn’t mean that freelance professionals shouldn’t think about delivering excellent customer service, too.
As service providers, making sure that our clients have the best possible experience when dealing with us is crucial. It helps us make them happy and keep them loyal, stimulate word of mouth, and establish a good reputation. If you’re a freelance, customer service is something you really need to think about. Here are three steps to follow to deliver excellent customer service to your clients.
Negotiating the terms and conditions of a collaboration can be a daunting task. A client may not be happy with the delivery time you offer, or your rate, or your terms of payment. Instead of sticking to your guns obstinately, find some room for flexibility. If the client needs your services very urgently, they may agree to pay a bit more to get things done quickly. If they think your rate is too high, you may suggest lowering it by 5 or 10% if they agree to pay in advance or extend the deadline. Flexibility allows you to add value for the client right where it’s needed. Just make sure that you’re not losing value yourself.
Freelancers usually manage several clients at once, which means that email inboxes and phones could be buzzing all day, taking time away from actual paid work. True: emails and phone calls can be distracting and have a negative effect on productivity. Also true: no one likes delayed email replies and unanswered phone calls. So, what is best: ignoring emails and calls to get work done, or always replying immediately to the detriment of productivity?
To get around this conundrum, you can do two things. The first is to organise your day and allocate specific time slots to emails and calls. For example, you could reserve the first 30 minutes of your workday and 15 to 30 minutes after your lunch break to emails and calls. The second thing is to educate your clients. Let them know when is the best time to call you, or tell them to send you all project files/comments/questions at once rather than sending you 15 emails a day. Make sure to take into account and manage potential urgencies, as these will need your immediate attention.
Bonus tip: set up an automatic “out of office” email reply when you go on holiday, specifying when you will be back and able to reply. Here’s how to do it in Outlook, Gmail and Apple Mail. Unless you’re going on a desert island, however, check your inbox daily just in case there are any urgent emails.
Go the extra mile
Going the extra mile doesn’t necessarily mean throwing in freebies or giving discounts. Sometimes excellence is in the little things. When you receive a text to translate and you spot typos and errors, let your client know. When a client needs a service that you don’t or can’t provide, tap into your network and refer someone you trust. And if you can’t refer anyone, point your client in the direction of professional associations or databases they could use to find someone. Always offer a solution. Send your clients a card for Christmas or the New Year. Send them links to articles they may find useful. There is a lot you can do to add value and show your clients that you care.