Guest Post by Andrea & Jennifer Hougland, Events with Soul
Have you ever walked away from a restaurant or retail store and been so upset about the service you received (or more accurately didn’t receive)? Maybe you’ve been so frustrated with a business that you’ve vowed to never use their services again? It happens to all of us at one point or another in our lives, and it is really frickin’ frustrating! And if you’re anything like us you probably spend a good 2 or 3 minutes yelling – probably to yourself – about it in the car.
But, what if you’re the business that’s giving the poor customer service? Now, before you say, “no, no, no, that could never be me” or lose your mind on us about how unhelpful and unnecessary this post is going to be for you, just think about it….
What if you’re losing out on future business because your current clients are getting frustrated?
We work in the wedding biz so we frequently work with different personality types, not only in regards to the bride and groom, but also with their vendors. We’ve pretty much seen it all; let’s just say we’ve got a wedding day story that involves squirrels – a story for another time. But the one thing that’s consistently frustrating for us and our clients is unresponsiveness and just an overall lack of communication. More times than we’d like to share, our clients come to us frustrated that other vendors they’ve reached out to haven’t returned phone calls or emails. And the crazy thing is that the majority of these vendors are already under contract with our client, and these missed phone calls and emails are often missed opportunities to collect payment.
Answer that email. Answer that phone call. Collect that paper, yo!
As wedding coordinators, who are gatekeepers to the bride and groom and all wedding details, having vendors not respond to emails and phone calls, especially when we’re in the final countdown and trying to finalize details for the big day, makes it extremely difficult for us to pull off amazingly flawless events. Don’t get us wrong, we’re totally badass enough to still pull off these amazingly flawless events, it just makes it more difficult to do so!
But here’s what happens because of it – WE DON’T REFER THEM! We refuse to refer those vendors to our clients because we don’t want to work with them again. And then the bride and groom get on these vendor’s social media pages and leave less than positive reviews about their experience, which essentially warns potential clients not to hire them.
Let’s be honest, in today’s world, no matter what industry you’re in, referrals are the name of the game. We all know that ‘bad press’ can sink you just like the mean ‘ol iceberg did to the beloved Titanic – RIP Jack.
Customer service is, and has always been, about just that – the customer. And that goes for all businesses, not matter what industry you’re in. Now we’re sure that all of you fabulous biz owners here at Think Creative Collective completely rock at customer service, but we can all constantly do things to better ourselves and our business.
So let’s discuss ways to avoid upsetting a client when responsive communication isn’t your strong point.
Maybe you’re like us and side hustling so you can’t constantly check your emails – set-up an automated email! No matter what email medium you use for your business you should be able to set-up an automatic email that shoots out anytime someone emails you. It can be detailed or short and sweet, but just let them know you’ve received their email and will be in touch with them within 4 hours, 12 hours, or 24 hours, whatever is the most doable and realistic for you. Keep in mind that we live in an instant gratification culture so the sooner you can respond the better. (We’d recommend keeping it under 24 hours). But even just receiving an automatic message gives the potential or current client a sense of relief that their request has been heard.
Then make sure you respond in the appropriate amount of time! Make it the first thing you do every morning – get the kids out the door, grab a cup of coffee, and tackle that inbox, or do it every evening once you get the kids to bed – get that glass, or bottle (no judgements here!) of wine and get to work! Find what works best for you and make it a sacred rhythm.
Out of Office Messages
If you know that you will be on vacation, busy with a major event, or just unavailable for a few days – then out of office messages are your best friend. Updating your voicemail to express why you aren’t answering and when the client can expect a response, is an easy way to re-route phone calls. The same goes for emails. Set an out-of-office email response that will kick out to any and all incoming emails, sharing when you will be available to be back in touch.
To make things even more customer centric, if you know you’re going on vacation, give your clients a heads-up. Jennifer went to Europe for 3 weeks last April – insert jealousy here – and since she’s the event coordinator she sent an email to all of our event clients letting them know when she’d be gone and why, when she’d be returning, and to contact Andrea if they needed anything. Our clients found that really helpful.
Set-up Scheduled Communication
One of the easiest ways to keep on the low end of the stress scale is to schedule your communication opportunities with your clients. If your client prefers speaking over the phone, schedule bi-weekly or monthly phone appointments. Set the precedence that communication in-between these phone calls is to be handled via email, text, or held until the next phone appointment. This isn’t being demanding with a client - as they will appreciate not feeling pressured to return your messages within a time constraint either.
If you know that communication is not a strength of yours, work to be better at it by over communicating. Because guess what? It’s not actually over communicating. We can’t think of a single client who’s ever said, “No, please don’t send me anymore emails detailing where we are at with all of the details of the biggest day of my life.” Again, that works for any industry. Even though your clients are outsourcing something to you – whether it’s designing wedding invitations, crafting a burlap wreath, or creating branding for a company – they want to be updated. Your clients want that reassurance that their project is being taken care of and is top priority, even if it isn’t because you have other clients and probably a life (but they don’t have to know that).
Unless you’re Apple or Amazon, you probably need referrals to keep your business afloat. So don’t lose out on potential clients because of easily fixable communication issues. Make your clients consistently feel like they are your number one priority. That way, if you do have a communication mishap, it becomes the exception not the rule, and therefore easier for your clients to forgive and move on.
Implement one, two, or all of the tips above to keep your current clients happy, and it will undoubtedly give you more business either from current clients or new prospects. Happy communicating!
About the Authors
Hey Y’all! We’re Andrea and Jennifer Hougland – two sisters-in-law living in Kansas City with our hubbies, kiddos, and fur-pups. We’re Events with Soul – a full service event planning and design company. Andrea, our designer, has a love for all things creative, coffee, and care-free, while Jennifer, our coordinator is the perfect mix of sassy, organized, and bossy. Like every other creative team, we love our wine and coffee!
Feel free to drop us a line if you ever want to chat biz stuff, collaborate on a project, or just chill and watch Jimmy Fallon videos!