Hallelujah! Your phone rang and it is a new customer who wants to do business with you! Many companies err by simply sending out a new customer information form for the new customer to complete and return. Other companies mail a new customer form out and request that the customer confirm it, and the contract, prior to starting work. This feels a little scary to a customer and they may not ever sign or return the requested new customer forms and contracts.
If you are a service-oriented business like us, you realize that customers are buying your reputation and possibility. It’s common for a customer who buys something they can’t touch to feel a twinge of buyer’s remorse when they hand over a check or sign a contract.
Here are a few methods we have found work well to keep the new customer excitement going:
1) Face to face is still best. When a customer calls to hire you, set up a time to meet. You will tell them that you would like to meet them and hear more about their project, and that is true. This is also your opportunity to provide your new customer with a light orientation to your business and how you handle projects like theirs.
2) Develop a new customer orientation form. This ensures that you ask all the important questions to the customer. Questions that we use on our new customer orientation form include: Project contact, billing contact, hours of operation, project scope, how the customer feels like the project will help them, specific details that the customer really wants to see, and specific details on what they do not.
3) Put your listening ears on. When we first started meeting with clients, we brought laptops and LCD players to show them tons of work product. We felt like we had to answer every single question the instant it was asked. Now, we realize the most important thing we can do in the new customer orientation meeting is to get a feel for the customer, their business, and how we can help them be more successful.
4) Set expectations. Within 24 hours of meeting with a customer, send an email or letter to recap the discussion. This is also a perfect opportunity to set expectations for what the customer can expect moving forward. During the new customer orientation, we tell our customers that they will hear from us the next day with a project schedule and a recap of our discussion. Then, we do exactly that. Right away, this say/do consistency inspires your customer to have confidence in their decision to do business with you.
5) Communicate with confidence and sincere humility. Be confident in your ability to do your very best to satisfy the client, however; never forget that the customer can fire you in the space from what heartbeat to the next. A general rule of thumb we use in communication is: tell the customer what you’re going to do, do it, then tell them what you did.
6) Use your manners. Saying “please” and “thank you” may be one of the most forgotten business practices in today’s marketplace. Without sounding drippy or insipid, take any natural opportunity that comes up to tell your customers you appreciate their business and always say “please” when you ask for something.