Hopefully as a business owner you have heard you should learn about your clients. You have probably also heard you need to focus on your demographics and learn whattype of clients would work well with your business. The downside to this is that sometimes we forget our clients are really people, too. With almost all people, communication and open mindedness is almost always the key to success. (Hear what members had to say and how other sitters keep client’s happy.)
1. Give customers more than they expect
Whether from promises you place on your website or from what others do in your area, know what your customers expect from you and then do more. For example: If you ordered non-rush product from me with a 5-7 day delivery with free shipping, you would be happy. If you then received the product next day you would have a lasting impression of ‘wowness’ with my company. Even if I could probably always send it next day, I wouldn’t tell you that because you would expect it. Know what you can offer. Promise their expectations and then wow them with more. (Read ’Delivering Happines’ by Zappos CEO Tony Hseih)
So how can you do this with sitting?
- If you have extra time between visits, make longer visits and make sure to tell the client about their bonus.
- If the client lets you make a spare key, make an extra one for the client.
- When you set up an initial visit with a client, find out their availability schedule. If you plan to meet them within a few days, see what you can do to meet them later that day (or asap)… and tell them you were able to squeeze them in because you are very excited to have them as a client.
- Take a client to breakfast… or golfing… or anywhere the client likes. (We had a walker who took a client on a Chicago day cruise because the client’s husband would never pay to do a tourist thing in the city he lived.
2. Know your clients.
Know your client’s hot buttons. On a large scale, you can send out surveys to current clients to see what they like and don’t like about your offerings. Some clients are more apt to respond honestly to a survey.
Talk to you clients. Even if you don’t get them Christmas cards or cards for special occasions in their life (baby birth, etc.) talk to them about it. If someone is having a baby, post articles on your website about introducing babies and dogs… and be sure to send it to them. Be their friend and learn about them. Know their habits and help them make informed decisions about whatever you can (especially their dogs.) (Think of the popularity of Amazon’s ‘Other People Have Bought’ recommendation.)
3. Respond IMMEDIATELY to problems
As a consumer, you should know how annoying it is to reach out to someone and not get a response for a few days. Businesses that do large amounts of business have call centers that answer the phone. This is because they people are unhappier if they’re waiting on someone to get back to them. Be quick about solving problems with a great solution.
And don’t believe that if you created a problem with a client, you have lost them as a client. Much of the time, you can keep the relationship going… and if you hone your skills, you can usually use the mistake as a bonding point between you and the client. Let’s say you missed a dog walk one day. Be calm and call the client as soon as you know. If it was your fault, admit it. If it was there fault, don’t blame them… help them know for next time. Be honest and sincere. Be sympathetic towards the dog (Are they okay? Is the house okay?) and listen to the client’s feelings. Understand them. Show empathy. By the end of the call or when you speak to them a few hours later explain how you created a fix for the problem and thank them profusely for helping you find an error. Give the dog a gift basket or free visits. (GO over and above an apology.) The point is to make sure everything is okay and then do more to make sure the dog (or the client) is happy.
4. Keep In Touch
It’s natural for relationships with certain clients to become closer and further away at times. It gets busy running a business. Set up a reminder in your calendar to take an hour a week to contact clients you have not spoken with in a month: send them a personalized e-mail, call them, do something to reach out to them. A handwritten ‘thank you note’ outside of the pet visit only has to be three sentences… and you’re usually at their house so you don’t even have to put a stamp on it.
5. Be personable
As much as people try to make relationships with a ‘business,’ relationships are mostly about people. You can grow your business and clients can trust the types of people your company hires, but if you are not personable… if your staff is not personable, things will shut down.
Being a larger or more productive company is great, but when it loses the human touch for profit it loses spirit. If you dislike a client, they still have every right to get an equal taste of your company as the next person. Also keep in mind that just because you dislike them, you might not dislike people who they refer to you. Be a person to your clients, not just a robot for a business.
6. Reward your customers.
Because who does not like seeing a return (or at least a little perk) on their investment. Yes, their pets are happier. Yes, their house is well cared for. Gift exchanges are sometimes expected during the holidays; they lose their luster and get mixed in with all the other corporate gifts. Do it in March… or July.
We saved our pennies and bought our clients $15 gift cards to Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, or whatever coffee /snack place we knew they liked. It took some research, but we used them for birthdays or little (otherwise pointless) moments of celebration:‘Yay! It’s your dog’s 29th walk with us and that’s how old he is in human years! Happy golden walk!’…or… ‘Yay! Milo didn’t chase after any squirrels today! I’m glad you and I (client and dog walker) are working on training him together. In honor of this, I award you with a gift card.’ Or to our one die-hard & jovial Bears fan: ‘Yay! Bears beat the Packers this weekend! Scruffy barked at your neighbor (Packer’s fan) and wagged his tail when he saw someone in a Bear’s Jersey. Well-trained! Please accept this gift card in celebration.’
Gift ideas: dog treats, gift certificates, free walks, ‘extended’ walk gift certificates, items with their pets pictures on it… (I like shutterfly or cafepress.com.)
Make your interactions with them enjoyable and memorable. Create a fun environment your clients will enjoy… and most of them will praise you for it. Be human and enjoy yourself.
APSE Board Member
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Don’t forget to join us on February 14th @ 4pm PST for our interview with Zappos Insights!