The power of being positive – part four


Chantal

Here is the final section from the sample chapter of my book (working title One in Ten – How to Survive Ten Years in Business). The chapter is about how the power of being positive is so important for successful businesses.

 Click here to read part one of this chapter; click here for part two; click here for part three.

Talk to your clients

A valuable lesson I have learnt in business is to never assume anything. A friend made an assumption that nearly cost him a large client. This client is something of a celebrity who is not short of cash and he is very careful about how he spends it. He commissioned some work from my friend and queried every cost. At one stage in the project, my friend carried out some work, at extra cost, which was not first been agreed with the client. Overall, the cost was quite small in comparison to total project, yet the client was angry at not being consulted about the work. Even though the work was needed, the tension it caused between my friend and his client took its toll on their relationship. The trust was gone.

Never assume that your clients are happy simply because you do not hear from them. Just because someone never complains does not mean that there is nothing wrong. Even asking clients if they are happy will not tell you everything. You need to really understand what is happening within your clients’ businesses – what issues they face and where they are going with their businesses – to know to how products or services help them overcome those issues and reach their goals. Asking your clients for honest feedback is scary. You may hear things that you do not really want to hear, yet without that feedback, how can you improve what you do and move your business forward?

Carrying out a Customer Value Survey amongst your clients will help you get good feedback. Every couple of years, take a selection of clients and ask them what they think of your business. You can start by emailing them your questions, for them to send replies. Then you can get on the phone and speak to some of them, asking them the questions and talking to them about their answers. It is usually easier for someone to give good feedback when they can talk to you about it, than if they have to write it down; a conversation allows you to go into deeper detail. With some clients, you can arrange to meet with them to go through the questions; doing this over lunch or coffee makes the whole experience even more enjoyable for both of you and helps strengthen your relationship.

What should you ask? The questions that will elicit the most valuable information are around the value and benefits they get from working with your business. You can ask them why they came to you in the first place rather than one of your competitors. Ask them what they thought they would get before they started working with you, what they actually get and how they feel about the differences. In the many cases you may find that you are exceeding expectations; this does not mean that you can sit back and take it easy. It means that you have to look at how to keep up that level of service and satisfaction for your clients. This sort of survey also allows you to talk to clients about what else they would like from you, or what problems they are facing in their businesses. It is a great chance to spot opportunities and strengthen the relationship you we have with them. You cannot do this if you just assume that all your clients were happy because they have never complained.

Talking to your clients does not just tell you what they think of the service you provide; it also allows them to give you advice and ideas for your business. When I took one client out for lunch a few years ago, to ask for her feedback, she asked me about my exit strategy for my business, something. I had not thought about. My client suggested I speak to another one of my clients – a business adviser – about exit strategies and the future of my business. So then I took him out to lunch to ask for his feedback on our service and we ended up talking about exit strategies and doing some future planning for my business. Think about how you can use your clients to help you grow your business with their help.

In my business we use a number of suppliers. They include freelance writers, graphic designers, web developers, IT support, accounting and banking services, internet providers and business advisers. There is only one that ever asks me what I think of their service. They answer our phones calls when no one is available to answer them in the office. Working with the same contact for six years, every six months she calls. She tells me about the new services they have and tells me what she needs from me, to make the service better. I tell her what is going on at Appletree including new clients and new members of staff. That regular phone call makes me feel like a valued client and that the people who answer the phone are part of my team. I wish more of my suppliers took the time to ask me about my business and they provide. If they did, they would not be so surprised when I leave them unexpectedly.

When did you last ask your clients what they really think of your service? When did you last take one of your clients out for lunch?

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