12 tips that will help you retain your customers
To be successful as a freelancer or independent professional, it is necessary to have a good volume of clients. Of course, the search for new opportunities and promotion is important for this. But even more important is knowing how to retain your clients, that is, build their loyalty so that the working relationship is long-term.
While working for different clients will lead to diverse and interesting projects, long-term client relationships are the sure way for your business to thrive.
A happy customer is a customer who returns and also recommends you. But if you are not happy, you will look for another service provider.
These are some tips you can follow to be able to retain your customers and keep them for the long term.
1. Kindness without expecting anything in return
This is basic advice, but one that tends to be easily forgotten. When dealing with people, try to be pleasant, someone who is a pleasure to do business with and who creates an atmosphere of trust.
This does not mean that you make inappropriate jokes with your client, but smiling, being diligent, speaking in a friendly manner, and making some positive comments about their new project are things that can make your client feel well cared for. After all, more than customers, remember that they are people and we all like good treatment.
You should not have this attitude of good service only when you are trying to sell them something, but in general.
If you have the opportunity, even small gifts like an end-of-year agenda or a card for a company anniversary or holiday can be greatly appreciated.
2. Be honest
Honesty is a value that must be perceived by your client from the beginning. This is not only about not trying to sell him things he doesn’t need or charging him fair prices. It also applies to being honest about your knowledge and the feasibility of carrying out a project, delivery times or if your workload at that time does not allow you to accept the project.
In the latter case, you can review with the client a longer delivery time or postpone the start of it. Even if you think you can do the job, but you will need a collaborator, let them know. Ultimately decline the offer.
It will be more noticeable to the client if you are honest about these aspects than if you accept a job that you then deliver late or with errors.
The same applies if the client asks for something that your experience has shown you is not going to work or that cannot be done. If you can, offer an alternative solution.
Working collaboratively and transparently with your client is important if you want to maintain the relationship long-term.
In line with honesty regarding your capacity and the viability of a project. It also goes hand in hand with the discipline that every freelancer must have if they want to be successful.
Make sure you comply with the time allocated for the client’s project to meet the established deadlines. Therefore, it is important that you negotiate the delivery date well with the client. And if you have promised a job for one day, try to deliver it early that day and within business hours.
Something very annoying for clients is when they promise you a job for a certain day and send it to you at 11 at night, since that means that you will see it until the next day. The same applies if the client is a company and must present what you send him that day, but you send it to him at 6 in the afternoon, when he has already gone to his house.
If you promised a job by May 15, send it first thing that day. That is true compliance and will give you prestige and credibility. If you meet the deadline and deliver good work, you build trust and rest assured that they will contact you again.
On the other hand, if you always deliver late and there is never a guarantee that you will deliver when due, the client may not want to work with you unless they have no other choice. Be conscientious and always deliver on time.
4. Be available
This means that your work schedule and that of your clients must be in sync. Of course, it doesn’t mean that if your client decides to send you his new idea at 2 in the morning you should respond at that time. But you should try to be available at a reasonable time and respond quickly to questions about the project.
Provide your customers with different ways to contact you whether by WhatsApp, Hangouts, phone or email. The point is that they can find you in a reasonable amount of time and not feel like “you’re lost.”
Maintaining contact with your clients is important so that they come back to you as a priority when they have a next project.
Very important: Do not ignore your client. If they send you emails or messages to ask how their project is going, try to respond as soon as possible, within business hours. If it is an email, within a period of no more than 24 hours. And if it is an instant message within the day you are in, whether morning or afternoon.
For example, if a client wrote to you at 10 in the morning on Hangouts, do not respond at 2 in the afternoon, but before noon.
Of course, we know that part of organization is not to be on the phone and email all the time, because that slows down your productivity, but you should have a set schedule to respond to everyone in a reasonable period of time. Both messages, social networks and emails.
Giving a quick and timely response is a good way to show the client that you are interested. And a client who feels attended to in a timely manner will surely return.
5. Ask questions about the projects
Of course, it’s not about bombarding you with constant questions, but about showing that you really aren’t leaving things to chance. If you have any questions about a preference that the client might choose, you can ask them to make them see that you are not working or making decisions without consulting them.
On the other hand, making him participate in the process will create more commitment to the “work team” that you have formed with him. And if you need clarification when carrying out the work, do not hesitate to ask for it.
Also, when starting a project, you can ask the client what their general objectives are. This can help you better understand what the customer wants and how you can help them achieve them.
Try to make your questions specific and list all your doubts in the same query. That way you avoid sending 3 different emails asking more about the same thing.
Review all the details of the project and create a list of all your questions before sending the query.
Then take a break and come back to review each point. You may be able to answer some of them yourself before sending them all. The points that are not yet clear are the ones you should send to the client.
6. Report progress
Especially when it comes to long-term projects, it is important to maintain communication with the client and update them on the progress of the project. This is basic and very useful to reinforce customer confidence.
For example, sending a message saying that a stage of the project is almost ready and that you hope to send it to them the next day is a way to reassure the client that you are working on it.
Maintaining this contact also reduces the client’s anxiety about calling you and asking what happened with the job.
Report your progress in a timely manner and, if possible, also show data or progress graphs so that the client can see how their project is progressing.
7. Exceed expectations
This is something that is repeated a lot, but that few do: Go “the extra mile”, a service much better than what the client regularly expects.
In most cases, customers look for a service provider, not just because of the price, but because they feel that they save time, that the job is well done, that they are well taken care of, and that they really made a profit.
It’s not about giving away your work, but your professional philosophy should not be to not take another step if they don’t tell you. Be detailed, be proactive and if you can do something to give “the final touch” to a job, do it. However simple it may be, it can be greatly appreciated.
For example, if you made a website for a client, but didn’t mention anything about a favicon , give them their logo and show them how great it turned out when they delivered the site. Or if you made a logo for your client, you can adapt it for his Facebook profile and tell him it is the exact size. They are small details, but they will be appreciated as a plus.
8. After-sales tracking
Good communication and feedback will help you make customers feel well cared for and also help you know where you can improve.
Once you finish a project with a client, always check back a few days later to see what they thought of the work. Ask them to comment on how much they liked it and if it was useful to them or what the results were.
You don’t need to refer to it until there is a new project. You can do it by phone, video call or email. Even send a quick survey to your client to evaluate you.
The important thing is that you stay in contact with the client and show that you are interested in their satisfaction.
This can make a big difference when it comes to retaining it in the long term.
9. Problem management
When a problem arises on a project, as it sometimes does, try to resolve it quickly and effectively, be ready to help, and offer solutions or alternatives.
Keep in mind that you are working to make things easier for them. Even if this requires a small change in the way you are doing things or it is not the way you would do them regularly. Try to anticipate problems before they arise, but if they appear, be an agent of solutions and not of doubts and more obstacles.
As an example: if a client orders you a logo, but when testing the draft he tells you that the proportions do not fit, quickly propose to adapt it instead of complaining about “having to do it all over again.”
If a client feels that you are complicating things rather than solving them, they will not want to work with you again. But if you are diligent and always offer solutions or face problems calmly, you will gain their trust more.
10. Continuous improvement
Sometimes errors can occur in the work you are doing. If the client is not happy with some aspect of the work, he tries to correct it in the best way.
Accept criticism, solve problems and apologize if the situation warrants it. Learn from your mistakes and ask for more guidance next time if you’re not clear on something.
Of course, this means that you are going to really improve. It would not be acceptable for you to continue making the same mistake on the next occasion.
Your clients should be able to count on you to do a good job every time.
11. Update your services regularly
As time goes by, new technologies and tools emerge to get a job done. This will make your client expect, of course, better service every time.
Try to stay updated in terms of skills and use of tools for quality work.
Remember that the needs of the market are changing and the client must feel that the solution you offer is in line with the times and trends.
If you’ve invested time in learning new marketable skills since you started your job, it’s time to let them know.
At the same time, you can publicize your new offers and services. Let your clients know exactly how these services can benefit them. Especially if you have already done similar work for them previously.
Present them as a special launch and announce it on your networks too.
12. Ease of doing business with you
As a final tip, try to make working with you easy and stress-free. You may be the best professional in your area, but if working with you is a pain, even the most loyal customers will eventually look to another provider.
If you want to increase your effectiveness in retaining your clients, focus on making work and communication fluid, without complications. Let the client find you easily. That the work is well organized and that you are not bothering with obvious queries or that you could solve yourself. Do not overwhelm the client by presenting constant problems, complaints or obstacles.
Also make sure your procedures for hiring, billing, and payment are simple. It doesn’t mean that you don’t put clear clauses in your offer. But don’t let the client have to beg to hire you or go through a lot of trouble to pay you.
The goal is to make life easier for your clients, not to complicate it, nor for each project to be a lawsuit.
Always ensure that the work flows and that the client feels in harmony working with you.