10 Ways Freelancers and Small Business Can Provide Great Customer Service

Image credit: Karl-Erik Bennion

I had a whole box of party favors leftover because I overestimated the number of kids attending. I contacted the company to ask if I could return the unopened party favors for a refund. The company said to keep it, and they’ll issue a refund. Sure, it may cost more for me to send it back and for the company to deal with the return.

But to me, the company surprised and delighted me. I have made more purchases after that.

My daughter is a hostess and waitress at a nearby eatery. She had a great day until our family dined there. We were her last customers and she messed up our order. We did not complain. Instead, we told her it was OK and we know mistakes happen. Nonetheless, our drinks were free.

I’ve posted other customer service experiences. In looking at how I land new clients, I find the majority come from word of mouth recommendations. That tells me customer service must play an important role in my career as a digital marketer. I represent me and what you get is me. Customer service is more than just doing great work with a smile. Customer service is also a marketing tool.

I believe the following actions make up the customer service element of a freelancer’s business:

  1. Provide excellent results: You can be the nicest and easiest person in the world, but it won’t save you if you repeatedly submit poor quality work. The client will give up. This isn’t the same thing as perfection. I could keep perfecting this post, but I had to stop and let it go.
  2. Meet deadlines: Are you on schedule? Late? Or constantly asking for deadline extensions? Good writers plan ahead so they don’t fall into the last-minute trap, which could lead to sacrificing quality.
  3. Listen: Let go of what’s on your mind and listen to what the client says so you can understand. Don’t be in a hurry to share your thoughts and experience. It’s easy to miss what the client really wants. Respond by reflecting on what the client said instead of turning it around to make it about you. I received an article request from a client, but the client didn’t like the direction the article took. Several colleagues reviewed the article request and the article. They all agreed I met the request. It doesn’t matter if it was the client’s fault or mine. I collected more information from the client and rewrote it. (See No. 7.)
  4. Make it easy to work with you: Are you easy to work with? Do you fight every edited word? Are you listening to the client’s preferences and styles? Do you follow the client’s process? Are you accessible? Some of the busiest authors are also the most accessible. More accessible than plenty of unknowns.
  5. Stay cool: No matter how the client behaves or acts, your attitude and response to the client should never burn bridges. Even if you go separate ways, the client can still talk about you. Sometimes your personalities and styles don’t mesh. It happens. One client wanted web content that didn’t reflect content standards. It was better to separate than to give the client what he wanted. What he wanted wasn’t what I could deliver. Furthermore,  I would not have enjoyed the work, which brings us to…
  6. Enjoy the work: Do you hate the work? That will affect your attitude and everything else about the project. Maybe you need to let go. It’s OK to work toward assignments you love and enjoy. Your passion will shine through and make a difference in your outlook, which in turn affects service. I find I procrastinate more on work that I dread. I’m lucky that’s not an issue anymore.
  7. Fix mistakes: Problems happen. We all make mistakes. Really. It’s HOW you handle those mistakes that can make the difference between great and lousy customer service.
  8. Respond quickly: How quickly do you return calls and emails? Even if you’re swamped, at least acknowledge you received the message and will get back to the person.
  9. Solve problems: Do you work to help clients with their problems? Find another or a better solution? Some people try to push their solutions on the clients to make it work rather than adapt to clients’ needs.
  10. Be honest: A client overpaid me. I emailed the client to let him know and subtracted the overpaid amount in the next invoice. Yes, it’s hard to be truthful in some situations. Telling the truth can do less damage than telling lies and getting found out. Besides, you feel better about yourself. It also creates goodwill.

Regarding perfectionism, Christina Katz said it better than I could.

“I’ve given up the tireless quest for perfection for a looser, friendlier style of working with myself and others. I also no longer worry, inordinately, about what other people think of me. I don’t fret about whether they think my service is or isn’t up to snuff. Instead, if my service isn’t momentarily the greatest–because I’m human, so of course this happens from time to time–I apologize and move on,” she says.

How do you provide great customer service?

6 thoughts on “10 Ways Freelancers and Small Business Can Provide Great Customer Service”

  1. Meryl, in a time when good service seems a rarity this is a timely post. I don’t mind mistakes or goofs, but I do mind how you handle them. We’re human, things happen. I love Christina’s take on service. My own approach was learned in childhood, service should be an extension of doing the right thing, treating others with respect and being genuine.
    .-= Karen Swim’s blog …Unleash Your Passion for a Perfect Performance =-.

  2. Hi Meryl,
    Yup. These tips are pure gold. The old standard of Underpromise and Overdeliver is still a good one and these tools add immeasurably to that concept.
    When a business goes out of their way to make me a happy customer, I respond with fierce loyalty. I think it’s human nature.
    .-= George Angus’s blog …Flash Fiction The Good Knight =-.


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