Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Designers beware of… customer service.

Something to think about in any business is your relationship with your clients. We designers often think that the world doesn't understand us, that clients don't speak the design language… think again: It is we who need to understand them and speak their language.

Speak their language you ask? It's not as hard as you think, I found that mainly the secret is to listen. Take the time to sit down and find out what your client expects from you and vice versa.

The tracking system I mentioned in my previous blog will be one of your best allies, because you'll always have information for your clients at hand, you'll know exactly where each project is, if it's been invoiced, sent, what the terms where, etc. Accurate information is very valuable to clients and it'll be a differentiating point against your competition.

Also, when the project is in the client's hands, make sure you follow up on them, let them know that you're available to answer any questions and that you care about what they have to say. If you can, attend some negotiation seminars and learn the way to handle tough customers. It is important to learn how to say no as well, and guide your clients towards the best design solution, one that they're happy with and that doesn't compromise your principles.

Remember I told you about speaking the language of the clients? Well, you need also to be aware of the way you speak, this means, grammar, spelling and the way you present ideas. This is particularly important when sending emails and explaining design issues in writing. It is very easy for a customer to get confused when he receives an email and it's not well written.

Revise how much detail you want to go into when discussing matters with your clients. Little detail and you won't be able to convey your message, too much detail and it's likely that your counterpart will get confused. Grammar and spelling do speak about your professionalism, so be aware of the image you're presenting. Check emails for errors or typos before sending them and make sure your staff does the same.

Do call your client on a regular basis to let them know that status of a project. They should never have to call you. Be strict about meeting deadlines and exceed your customer's expectations.

Remember, the clients are the ones bringing in the money, so treat them as you would like to be treated, put yourself in their shoes… you will find that many times your clients become your friends and your best referrals.

All the best!

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