In a lot of ways, client satisfaction can be seen as a service in and of itself. It won’t be noticed by the end users of the product, be it a website or a marketing campaign, but making the client happy isn’t something that happens on its own.
You have to work on it. It takes skill, talent and experience to work with people in a professional environment. It may not be the primary lasting mark you make on the project, but there’s something to be said about tending to the client in such a way that they enjoy the experience of working with you.
The absence of good leaves room for bad
The lack of client satisfaction is the “but” that comes after “well, the website looks great” or “the marketing really spiked our sales” or the hesitation to recommend when a friend or a contact is looking for a similar service. Once they take that little pause to think, odds are, they aren’t about to land you another client. A qualified recommendation may just as well not be a recommendation at all.
Because that lack of strong satisfaction is fertile ground for all kinds of unwanted things, from hesitation and fear to the feeling that you’re settling for a service from someone when you could actually see yourself getting it from somewhere else. I’ve seen this first-hand; clients sticking to companies that they think are OK, because that’s better than companies they don’t know at all.
But then they get a glowing recommendation of somebody else from one of their contacts — and they’re off like a lightning bolt.
Trust and expectations
Another benefit of having a good working relationship with a client is that the dynamic changes from a rather dispassionate money-for-goods service to a friendlier and more collaborative atmosphere that allows for much better communication and managing of expectations.
For instance, SEO is a slow process. It takes time to see real results. If you hire a company that are a bit standoffish or that you don’t particularly like, and they charge a lot of money, what can you do but expect your investment to be met with what you would guess is a solid return? Without a bond of trust, what do you have, except the lofty promises of their copywriting?
On the other hand, if the client trusts you, you can be straight with them and they will still feel comfortable that they will see a good return on their investment, because you’re in this together. They’re not kept outside the loop whilst the machine works for a month and then spits out what’s declared to be an optimised website.
Moreover, if you don’t leave your client with an understanding of why what you’ve made for them works, odds are, you’re leaving them with less value than you could have.
Don’t be nice, be respectful
Sometimes there will be conflicts or disagreements. They’re not failures — this is where the skills come into play. How do you deal with a client when they’re not happy?
More than anything else, respect them. Don’t be nice; that won’t get you anywhere. Don’t be dismissive; if you’re not willing to explain why you’re doing something in a certain way, is that really how you should be doing it?
On occasion, it’s clear that a client is dissatisfied or worried because of bad past experiences. When this happens, don’t slag off other companies. That’s a waste of time, it’s unprofessional and more negativity won’t benefit anyone. Remember that it’s likely nobody’s fault. Sometimes things simply do not work out.
Focus on what you do, why you do it and the good results wrought by it. Speak in positives rather than negatives. Say, “we do this” instead of “we don’t do that”.
Honesty will always accurately reflect a company.