We’ve all experienced the joy of doing business with a company that acts as if their people like serving you. It really is a great feeling. Most of the time, it happens with businesses like the local car wash, who has an attendant that recognizes you as a good customer and does a little extra for you that he doesn’t have to do; or the counter person at the dry cleaners who doesn’t ask your name every time you drop off your clothes; or a restaurant maitre’d who seats you at your favorite table by the window each time you come in.I love it when I do business with a company that makes me feel good. But how often do you get that same feeling from the professional service providers you deal with— your attorneys, accountants, or consultants? And perhaps more importantly, is your firm doing all it should be to make your clients feel special? Here are a few ways you can make it clear to your clients that you appreciate them:Get a welcome sign in your lobby. I’m talking about an easily changed sign that says something such as: “ZH43C Company welcomes John Jones of ABC Company.” This costs very little, yet can create quite a positive impression with a visitor. It has an added benefit of letting every employee in your office know who is visiting that day.Train your reception/switchboard staff to recognize clients and other frequent callers. This is hard to do, but well worth it. It’s especially tough if you have a big firm with lots of clients, or a high turnover at your reception desk. But it sure makes a difference when a caller is immediately recognized by the person answering the phone. Conversely, not recognizing an important caller (like your best client) hurts your image.Use every excuse to write handwritten notes. I’m talking about a quick “thank you” for the new project; a “congratulations” on seeing the client in print; or any number of other notes that provide evidence of your interest in the client. Make it easy for your staff to do this by providing everyone with the appropriate stationary or note cards (with the company name and logo, of course).Make a call even when you don’t have to. This is such an important part of communicating to clients that you care about them. Don’t just wait until a new project is coming out— call when you have no other reason than to check on them personally.Do articles on the client in your newsletter, and include photos. This is an ego-boost to your clients. Interview them for your newsletter, and ask for more than testimonials on what a great job your firm did for them. Get them talking about what’s important to them personally. Then print the interview with the client’s photo alongside. Hold special events to thank your best clients. There’s nothing wrong with a “client appreciation day,” where your best clients are celebrated in some way by your staff. Have a special lunch or dinner. Provide shared training for them and your staff. Put them in a “hall of fame” photo wall in your conference or lunch room. Send them a letter at the end of the year letting them know that they are in your “top 5” list of clients and as such, are entitled to special treatment in some way. Invite clients into your firm to talk. It is always an honor to be asked to speak. Why not ask a client to come in and address your firm on what it is that they and their firm or organization does? Everyone likes to toot his own horn, and the information clients provide to your staff may actually help your people do a better job serving them.Use E-mail to announce all new clients and jobs. It is shocking how few firms do this. Can you imagine how powerful it could be to have a profile of every new client broadcast via e-mail on the very day the job came in? For large firms that are getting new clients every day, it can be especially exciting. And it may keep your employees from treating clients like strangers if they ever run into them somewhere or if they happen to answer the telephone when they call.There are many low-cost steps you can take to help make your clients feel special. Try some of these ideas, and I’m confident you’ll be pleasantly surprised with the reaction. It’s just not that hard for an A/E/P or environmental consulting firm to distinguish itself in this area.Originally published 10/23/1995
About Zweig Group
Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.
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