11 Ways To Improve Customer Service As A Freelancer

Posted on 14. Jan, 2010 by David Y in Freelance

Imagine for a moment buying a product that everyone says is the biggest greatest thing ever made and after extensive research you buy it. On the way home you can’t stop staring at it on the seat beside you while doing the best you can to avoid an accident. Finally in the safety of your home you savagely open the product packaging and much to your horror there just so happens to be no instructions on how to get it working.. so you run to your computer and search for help just to end up with the same result.

Customer service to some seems to be one annoying sub par job and yet to others it’s the most important factor to their business. As freelancers it’s one of the ingredients that can make the cake taste good or cause it to be thrown out. Often times it seems as if the concept is more complex that it really should be, or if your like me your constantly searching out better ways to serve your clients.  Here are a few ways in which you can improve the customer service wing of your freelance career.

Know and understand your product

Your approached by a salesperson one fine day who has no clue about the features of his product or why he’s even there except to make money, you feel as if he’s wasting your time and so do your clients. No one likes someone who doesn’t understand what is in their portfolio no matter how nice it may be and no one likes to have their time wasted.

If a client says “Is this something you can do?” then be ready to say yes and explain exactly how your going to get them to their destination.

Now that same client asks you if you can help them and you happen to answer ” I think so, or I’m not sure” then your opportunity is ruined. Be confident in your abilities, understand what it is you do, how you do what you do as well as the results of what it is you do.

Understanding your product extends far beyond the initial landing of the client and getting paid, it also continues deep into working on the project as well as closing the project. Each step of the way requires dedication and your full attention.

Know your competitions product, being prepared by thinking ahead and knowing the scoop on your competitors is also a great way of improving your customer service. By understanding and knowing what it is others in your field offer you can create a better plan to give your clients the best possible experience.

Never bad-mouth competition

The competition is out there, it’s everywhere but at the same time in one way or another the competition is also different. Trash talking a competitor to a client shows them that your not fully confident in your abilities and also gives them the feeling that they might become fodder for your trash talking cannon to someone else.

Going down this road not only damages your reputation with that client which may also lead to you losing them altogether but what if your client has great influence and talks about what you did.. how do you think that helps you out in the end? Not very well I’d guess.

Being professional about the situation gives you the upper hand, it shows that you care about people enough to respect them and that the experience the client will have with you will be a good one, a simple process that saves you both time and keeps your credibility at the top of the charts.

Instead of trash talking, simply compare your features to theirs, if you happen to lack in one area show how you make up for that in another but never stoop to the low-level of trash talk because you never know if later down the road you may have to work with that person or if they would recommend you to someone.

Deliver on time and as promised

FedEx and Ups both deliver, mostly on time and as promised and so should you. Everyone loves when things are on time and consistent, the more you deliver as promised the more your clients will trust you. Sure unexpected events happen but they don’t always have to cause a negative effect. Incorporate the possibility of the unexpected into your project timelines.

Oftentimes the best feeling is receiving that order you were told would take 4 to 5 weeks for delivery arrives a full week ahead of time but it’s a terrible feeling to know something said it would take 2 weeks and ends up being delivered in 4. We all gain faith slowly but are quick to lose it.. same goes for your client.

If your track record shows you’re a person of your word then the occasional missed deadline will be overlooked however if  it shows your constantly missing deadlines then maybe you should find another job or quickly begin to work on delivering on time and as promised

Entertain your clients

We all think entertainment is awesome and if you don’t.. seriously get yourself checked out, being entertained is the essence of life however entertaining your clients doesn’t have to be an expensive dinner at your cost it could be something simple.

A few simple ways that won’t break the bank when entertaining your client are:

  • Client meetings are your local coffee shop. Having the occasional meeting outside the office allows you to bond with your client in a way you normally wouldn’t. The added benefit of this is being able to gain a reputation of being a people person.
  • Take them out for a drink. Show your client that you aren’t all about work and you know how to play and in the rare chance that they don’t drink well smoothie bars work just as well, especially if your client is avid on being healthy.
  • Find out what they like to do by doing this it shows you care and that they can trust you.

Often it comes down to keeping things simple. Don’t go overboard but keep it fun. I’m positive you will thank yourself for this later.

Communicate

Imagine a world where we know what the next person is thinking in relation to what we’re working on. Now open your eyes. Surprised? I sure hope not because that world doesn’t exist and most likely won’t. Without it the world would be chaos…well in a more chaotic state than it already is. Communication is crucial to every relationship. Communication is needed to be successful.

While in sales I learned quickly that to be the best at what I was doing I had to become a chameleon, meaning I had to adapt the way i communicated to customers on a whim. Being able to relate to the audience your in front of will do wonders for you both now and in the future.

Communication boils down to a few simple steps of:

  • Being consistent. No one likes to hear one thing this moment and something else the next, by being consistent you can prove to your client that you know exactly what it is you’re doing, by being consistent you can show confidence.
  • Think it through. Think back to the first time you showed up somewhere unprepared. Now think on how you felt, let’s take that experience and apply it to now, by thinking things through you not only can you deliver to your clients better but also you will be delivering to yourself better. Less is the chance for mistakes to happen because you thought ahead.
  • Be ye thorough. Have a backup plan for your backup plan because you never know what may go wrong. Explain each point in detail, by allowing yourself to be detailed in your approach you are enabling yourself to be easier for clients to approach as well as while working with them you are able to show to them that you do in fact know what you’re doing.

Communicate your progress on the project, describe how it helps them both now and how it will help them later down the road. With this tool in your pocket you will be successful.

Be  Honest

Up next is the obvious..honesty, something so simple yet so hard for many people to do. The equation boils down to this clients want to trust you so don’t give them a reason not to.

Growing up we always hear from our parents the importance of telling the truth, most of us would try to get away with a white lie but in the end we’d always get caught..same rule applies to the relationship you have with your client. Telling a lie to look good never works out neither in the short run or long run aspects of it all.

Imagine buying a product that tells you it can make the most amazing meals in 10 minutes and all you need to do is add water, salt and your favorite veggies and it will do the rest, so happily you shell out far more than usual based on the product description, then you head home follow the simple directions and 11 minutes later you dig in only to be disappointed by half-cooked food and the little cooker laughing at you. Think for a minute how you feel about that particular product, you feel angry and it all goes downhill from there. Same thing goes for your business when honesty isn’t a top priority.

As for laughing kitchen appliances… they don’t exist but imagine if they did..

Make their lives easier

This is where having good people skills comes into play. Everyone loves having things easier in life so what makes that any different for your client. Pick something close to your field of work that would make that project situation easier on your client and carry it out, you don’t have to do it all the time just once every so often. To your client it shows that you are interested in their business and that you have what it takes, it shows initiative and easily makes you stand out from your competitors.

Using the tools mentioned before such as communication, entertaining your client and getting to know them will work wonders for you both in the short-term as well as long-term.

Melt the ice man

The office prude, the Grinch, the ice queen or oh look it’s that guy, no matter where you go someone will give you the cold shoulder but don’t take it personal..perhaps that person just hasn’t had a good experience with others. Every problem has a solution.. let’s take a look at a few:

  • Meet with the person. A simple meeting whether in the office or in a relaxed venue may work wonders, find out what makes them tick, find out just what brings the soft nice person buried inside of them to the surface.
  • Listen. Listen. Listen. The solution to most problems we face is simply to listen before jumping to a conclusion.
  • Gain their trust. Somewhere along the line something happened to that person to cause them to dislike your kind strongly.. find out what it is and build up a trusting relationship. You may not win them over overnight but in due time you’ll bring them over to your side.

Ask for help

This might be the biggest obstacle many of us face, I know personally for me it is but honestly it’s not so bad. Asking for help doesn’t make you look weak in fact if anything it makes you look human.

Think for a moment, you’ve landed the big fish you’ve dreamed of for as far back as you can remember but then a few days into the project you soon realize that your in over your head no need to panic, simply ask for help. Collaborating with someone else in your field not only opens doors for you down the road but also helps you to keep up your reputation of being able to deliver and on time.

Doctors consult with one another so why can’t you?

Recommend something

Your clients are humans too. Know of a good event they might like? Tell them about it. Know of a way to save them money? Share it with them, later down the road that is more money in your pocket and a more solid relationship with your client.

Sharing knowledge makes you a go to person for things and you can only imagine what happens when they begin to speak about how helpful you’ve been to them, yup thats right..more business for you. Win Win solution for both you and your client.

When making recommendations to your client be sure you have a in-depth understanding of their business or of them, you certainly don’t want to end up in the place where you suggest something and it does more harm than good but at the same time don’t be shy either.

Show It Off

Your taking a look at your portfolio and it brings a smile to your face, warmth to your heart and a tear to your eye..why not share this feeling with the world. Showcasing your success and skills isn’t bragging. It’s showing prospective and current clients what you’ve done and just how capable of handling things you happen to be.

Showcasing your work shows confidence and highlights your skills. It backs up you’re talking game, it seals the deal. While showing others your highlight reel be careful to not come off as a jerk. Keep things modest and you will be rewarded.

What are some ways in which you have improved your freelance customer service department? I’d love to hear your thoughts below.

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