As designers, we all want  to “wow” our clients. We hope they experience that awe moment the first time they peruse our portfolio. We want them to be blown away by our sketches and designs. Our value should be evident in the way we present solutions to their problems. It seems that we spend so much time working on the how to impress our clients with our abilities, however, we should not forget that our services and abilities don’t stop when we close Photoshop. We also must provide excellent customer service to truly meet every need of each client we come in contact with.

Just Like Zappos

You’ve probably heard of They sell shoes. They sell shoes, just like thousands of other businesses around the world. What sets them apart is not their selection or their price. It’s their customer service that brings their customers coming back for more. Here’s just a few examples of their “wow” experience:

  • The company provides free shipping both ways. Sometimes they offer random “surprise” upgrades to overnight products to unsuspecting customers.
  • They have a 365 day return policy and encourage you to buy many shoes to “try on”
  • You can reach them 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and their 1-800 number appears prominently on every page of their website.
  • If products are unavailable, sales staff direct customers to competitors

So how do we learn from companies like Zappos? I’m here to give you several examples of ways to turn simple interactions into “wow’ experiences for your  clients.

1. Take Interest in Your Client and Their Business

Consumers make decisions based on trust. If they trust you, they’ll usually buy from you and buy from you again. One of the best ways to build trust is to take an active interest in the business of your client. Let’s be honest, most of us like to talk about what we like. And we love it when others find what we like interesting as well. So build the trust by finding out about your client’s industry and talk to them beyond the specifics of your project. Engage in deeper questions and don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. This little bit of extra time spent “in their court” will build trust and impress your clients.

2. Be Available and Respond Promptly

You’ve got to make it easy for clients to get a hold of you. I’m not saying you need to answer phone calls at 10:00PM or send emails on your family vacation. You still need boundaries. What I am saying, however, is open up as many possible avenues of communication as you can. Email is absolutely essential. Responding on Twitter or other social networks is nice too. And if you can, actually answer the phone instead of letting it go to voice mail.

If you are afraid allowing more communication will interrupt your creative flow, set aside a certain portion of the day to work on client communication. Batch process your email 2-3 times a day. Make “phone hours” for 1-2 hours each afternoon. Let your clients know when you’ll be available and the best way to reach you.

And most importantly, be prompt with your response time. Don’t let doubt creep in to your client communication. A strong open line of communication will lead to more trust and more comfort for both you and your clients.

3. Speak Their Language

Clients like to work with professionals who can meet their needs without over-complicating everything with technical jargon. When explaining your web design services, no client ever needs to hear, “Well we’ll start with a 960 grid layout in Photoshop where I’ll layout a 72dpi template utilizing the wire-frames and mood boards we’ll deliver. Then we’ll slice up some sprites and code out in xhtml, CSS, and jQuery. Then we’ll utilize [content management system of your choice] to take advantage of it’s modules, functions and server calls to make your website fast, SEO-friendly, and Dribbble-worthy. And let’s not forget the hosting…”

While all this is good for us design geeks, our clients could probably care less. And even if they do care, they probably don’t understand half the words you throw out. So be cautious when you go off on one of your rants about why Papyrus is the most overused font and instead speak clearly and in terms that your client understands. Find their comfort level and they’ll be impressed by your clarity and thoughtfulness.

4. Take it One Step Further

It’s the little things that can make the biggest difference. When you’re offering services to your clients, don’t be afraid to take things “one step further.” For example, if you agree to do a logo for a web design client, why not take a few extra minutes and work up a few social profiles, on the house. Or maybe instead of just sending them an email about how to do something in WordPress,create a brief personalized screencast that details everything they’ll need in an easy-to-follow video.

Anything you can offer above and beyond the client’s expectation will go a long way in establishing the “wow’ effect. These extra steps don’t take much time in the grand scheme of things but they offer so much perceived value and can even help cover over possible shortcomings elsewhere.

5. Don’t Play The Blame Game

And when there are mistakes or shortcomings (and there will be), don’t play the blame game. Have you ever been to a restaurant and heard a waiter tell you that they messed up the order in the kitchen? What’s more likely is the waiter forgot to put your order in correctly and instead of owning up to the mistake, they decided to throw someone else under the bus. Don’t be that waiter.

When you make a mistake, let your client know it was your fault. Transparent honesty is a refreshing quality and many clients will overlook the mistake if you offer them a genuine solution to resolve the error.

The same holds true if you’re being badmouthed on Twitter or in other public arenas. Confront your accusers and put out the fire before it can do any real damage.

What are Your Customer Service Tips?

What customer service techniques do you utilize? Are you actively learning from your daily interactions with other businesses? What have you seen from a consumer’s perspective? Use the comments below and let’s open up a discussion about the importance of excellent customer service.

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