Four Ways to Improve Your Customer Service

Four Ways to Improve Your Customer Service

When dealing with clients every little thing we do or don't do can affect whether or not they will refer us on to their friends or colleagues. The digital age not only helps us communicate and run our business but sometimes it is a hindrance to our ability to run a successful and personable business. Taking a step back and looking at the things you are doing currently and how they come across to your clients is your best form of action.

1. Make sure all your emails in your inbox are only work emails

Most of the time we sign up for websites that send us daily emails or deals, such as B&H, Amazon or any other site that you might peruse or enjoy. The problem with that is that those emails come to your work email, when they need to be separated. Having an email specifically for those types of things will allow you to focus on your work and get back to clients in a more timely manner. If you go into your email and you have a client inquiry and a fancy email that says 20% off all Canon refurbished gear then most likely you're going to click on the discount first. It's going to take you off topic and deter away from the time you could be responding to that inquiry. This also allows you to keep all your emailed receipts together in one email.

2. Take your email off your cell phone

I know crazy right? It's really not. We are all busy people, and the minute you check your email on your cellphone you become someone who is going to respond to that email in a busy manner.  You might not think anything of the three minutes your checking your email in the line at Starbucks, but it increases the chances that you aren't going to respond in a complete way. Which, depending on your client, can really hurt your ability to land the job. Not responding to emails from your phone turns your two sentence response into a paragraph email where your client now says 'wow, I really like them." This will also allow you to run your own schedule better. If you allot yourself a specific time in the morning to check and respond to emails it allows you to concentrate on other things later in the day.

3. Add an automatic response in your email 

This helps with number two. It allows you to not feel like you're missing something, even though you aren't checking your email every time you stop at a red light. Some people might think that it's pointless and overrated, but the minute a client sends you an email they get one back. This makes it so your name pops into their head again when they go to check their email later in the day. Even though you might have been on a shoot or at a wedding all day. Our automatic response is short sweet and to the point. It also lets clients know that they will get an email back within 24 hours, and should they not hear from us by then we would be grateful if they would email us again.

4. Send a thank you card

Yes, a hand written card. This can be after you book them, or after the whole job is finished. The minute you add a personal element  it increases the likelihood that the client will have a better interaction and review of your business. It shows them that you took time out of your day to dedicate solely to them.

Okay, so maybe the list is not 100% free since you have to pay the dollar for the card and stamp, but it's worth the extra effort to make sure your clients feel like they are getting 100% of your attention. You might shoot 30 weddings a year or work on 5 major ad campaigns but they need to feel like they're the only client. One happy customer can turn into a lifetime of referrals.

I realize this was a short list of my customer service tricks, so I'd love to hear what you have regarding tips on how to keep your clients coming back! Drop me a comment below, or contact me via my website at http://www.valandsarah.com/.

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17 Comments

How does one set up an automatic response?

It's different based on your email provider, start by browsing through your email account settings I'm sure you'll find it.

Sarah Williams's picture

we use google apps so its under settings > vacation responder

I'm sorry Sarah but Istrongly disagree with number 2. As a freelancer, I'm often away from my desk and my only form of communication is my phone. Clients can email (or call) at any moment in the day and on occasion a swift response is the difference between booking a last minute gig or giving the client the impression that you're accessible when they need an answer, fast.

What I feel number 2 should read, is "Knowing when to reply to an email swiftly and knowing when to put it off until later". The number of times I've received poorly written emails and replies littered with spelling and grammar issues is shocking. It looks unprofessional and gives the impression that you don't care enough to compose a well structured sentence. Wherever and whenever you are replying, just be sure that you can confidently devote the thought and time needed to reply professionally and you'll be alright.

If you want to take Sarah's advice and turn off your smart phone's email, feel free to do so but we live in a fast paced world where clients can't always afford to sit around and wait for you to get back to the office or back home to reply. As freelancers we often work long or odd hours and many of our clients work the regular 9-5, they often want a reply before they leave the office or they can very quickly get upset with you, which will give them impression that you have terrible customer service.

Sarah Williams's picture

Well if you're not at your desk all day and you're never near a computer then number two doesn't work for your business model. Do whats going to allow you to respond best then :)

Zach Sutton's picture

I disagree. I took my business email off of my phone about 4 months ago, and have gotten more compliments on my customer service because of it. When I replay to a person, I want to answer all of their questions, and give them all the information that they could possibly imagine.

When email was set on my phone, I found myself not only reading an email and forgetting to respond for hours and sometimes days, but when I did respond, it was just a couple quick sentences that I'd punch out on my phone.

I'm glad this trick is working for both of you, but I stand by my argument that I don't think it would work for everyone. Having good email communication is so important and for me, I define "good email communication" as both well written and prompt response time.

With the new wave of smart phone use, I find more and more people are using email service in the same way they use text messaging. Sometimes clients/employers will email me detailed, important info about the shoot I'm heading to (or already on) like addresses or contact info and if you can't receive that information right away, it can hinder the communication process and reflect poorly on you. I know the argument that if something is really important, they'll call. But I also believe it reflects poorly on you to be seen on a shoot answering your phone. Unless, when you start working with a client, you give them a heads up that you don't have email on your phone? In which case I think the client might see that as "Hmm..My photographer seems to be out of touch with technology..".

I would have to say if you get that many emails and you're that busy with clients you can do both and focus on the customer in front of you by hiring an admin and training them on your email etiquette.

Not only will this be way more professional your Customer service with the client in front of you AND the emails is growing.

Nope, I'm not at that point in my business to hire extra hands but funny enough, yesterday evening I was out with friends having a drink and I had a client who decided last minute to request a change in a video I did for him and if I didn't have email on my phone, I wouldn't have known about it, I wouldn't have promptly made my way home and the change probably wouldn't have been made in time for the client's deadline. Obviously, it wasn't a huuuge tweak or he would have called me in a panic (the video met his needs either way) but this is just one real world example of how having email on your phone can make the difference between doing your job or doing your job and going the extra mile, ensuring your clients are impressed with your customer service and come back!

I was especially eager to go the extra mile for this client because it happens to be one of the biggest clients I have and he's recurring regardless if I made the change or not but the value of going that extra mile should never be underestimated!

Von Wong's picture

I like having my email on my phone. Using an app like "MAILBOX" you can just schedule your messages to resend to yourself later. You don't want to miss on a potential job opportunity or things that are time sensitive by removing ur email from your phone IMHO.

Yeah, I disagree with number 2 and 3. I mean unless you are working with the suit/tie professional types, most clients like the informal style of business whether it's texting or emailing on phone. At least with my clients, they appreciate my quick response more than the quality or maybe some spelling errors in my email because I wrote to them via email on phone.

And number 3 is about as impersonal as they come. I ABSOLUTELY HATE receiving automatic responses. Why do you need them? I mean unless you are cave diving for a week or climbing everest how is it so hard that you can't get back to an email within 48 hours or so, or at least just send a personal email saying, "Hey "so and so", I'm out on vacation with my family right now, but I just wanted to let you know I received your email in regards to _______, and I'll get back to you on _______ when I get back home." A personal email will do wonders, an auto response is going to push the potential client away.

Most businesses I compete with do not respond to emails sometimes for a week or so. I be sure to respond to inquiries within 24 hours. Sometimes this is a hassle, but it ensures I get bookings and it keeps that personal connection. If I can't get to it in 24 hours, I simply just wait until I can. I'd rather go 3 days without responding than have an auto response sent out, because like I said for me, when I receive auto responses, I'm turned off and whoever I was looking at to give business has now lost a chance of my business.

+1

I see #3 and #4 as being opposite. Hand written cards are great and add a nice personal touch. Auto response emails are completely impersonal. My experience with auto response emails is that I get excited that they responded so fast, but then find out that it's just an impersonal robot response. It has always been a neutral to bad experience for me (maybe an overstatement), but I guess some people like knowing that their email went through?

I'm the same way. Especially when it's a client I email and I get a response back in a few minutes. I start getting excited thinking we are going to set up a meeting, and I find out "I'm out of the office until tomorrow." Really?! Until tomorrow, just email me back then, it's not going to kill me to have to wait 24 hours. lol

Sorry number in this day an age is commercial suicide! I can see if your a wedding tog that might be an option but as a commercial, Press and PR tog I live and die by email, often being sent job updates via email during the day. Quite simple read and re-read when you type! also add a little disclaimer in the signature on your phone saying that your responding on a handheld device.

I was about to say something similar...in the signature you can mention that you are sorry if there are any spelling mistakes. Also note that the short response and the lack of details are just to deliver a quick response to the email. I think this might solve the problem of appearing unprofessional in your response. :)

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