Client love — don’t let your clients guess the next steps

The first employee asked what scent I wanted, drew something on my windshield + handed me a slip of paper. He missed a great opportunity to tell me what door to go through + who I was going to see next. To be honest, I don’t think he ever instructed me to get out of the car, but I figured that out when he stood next to the open door waiting (impatiently I might add.)

I wandered down a hallway of windows + air fresheners for purchase, with no instructions or signage along the way to help. At this point I was feeling pretty stupid + convincing myself I wasn’t cut out for car washes. I got to a register where I instinctively handed the woman my slip of paper. She rang up my purchase (shit yeah, I got this step right!) and told me my total. I paid + got a receipt along with a large card. I paused, giving her the chance to help a girl out, but when the silence wasn’t broken, I spoke up — “What do I do with this?” she glanced at the card I was holding + said “Give that to the guys over there to get your car” while pointing to a door to the exit of the car wash.

Following her instructions, I wandered through the door + handed them my card. And then proceeded to stand + wait for what felt like an eternity because I wasn’t told to wait until I saw my car to give them the card. Two individuals passed me, flaunting their car wash experience in my face, before I finally got in my clean car + sped away.

Ok, so that story wasn’t as quick as I intended, but there are some big lessons to be learned + some missed opportunities that I don’t want you making in your business.

What to expect

Car washes are likely frequented by repeat customers or at least individuals who have been to another car wash before — but not always. Which means there is a chance you are dealing with an inexperienced customer. Instead of assuming + repeating information to customers that don’t want to hear it, a great idea would be to build in the question “Have you been here before” just before asking the air freshener scent question. That can trigger an explanation of what to do next if they are a new customer so that they feel cared for + informed.

Your business likely has a similar opportunity — maybe you are a photographer who has clients that have been photographed professionally before, but not everyone has. And those new to photography sessions may be mildly panicked about what to expect, what to bring/wear, and more. Even if they have worked with professional photographers before, if they haven’t worked with you specifically, explaining your process is a great way to set your boundaries + expectations so that things go as smooth as possible.

And it’s not just the first visit that can benefit from a “next steps” conversation. You likely could have a small conversation about the next steps during every milestone of work that you do with your clients. In the photography example, another place to list out next steps would be at the end of the photo shoot (even if you’ve explained the entire process to them early on.) When you are wrapping up for the day, say something like “great job today! I’ll be working on editing these for the next 2 weeks + will email you with proofs before the first of the month. That’s when you’ll pick out your 10 favorite prints for final editing.” These 3 sentences will help your client feel loved.

And if your client interactions happen more via email/project management software, why not create a next steps template? When you reach important milestones, you could send an email with a bulleted list of next steps at the bottom or you could have a document in your pm system that lists out the steps + you cross of the completed ones as you go.

Encourage repeat business

Not only did the car wash place miss an opportunity at the beginning to help me out, they missed a chance when I was paying to not only make me feel cared for (which is likely to make me want to come back) but also to explain the benefits of regular car washings (aka the benefits of me coming back + becoming a repeat customer.)

In service businesses, like website design, you may not want to tell a client they should redesign their site every few years when they pay your final invoice. Instead you could explain maintenance + on-going services you may provide (blog post graphics, social media templates, header refreshes, etc) + also set a reminder in your calendar to touch base with them every few months or every year. It’s not a good idea to assume your clients know what they need, they hired you because you’re the expert.

Don’t make assumptions

The moral of the story is that it’s not a good idea to make assumptions about what your clients do + don’t know. Even if they’ve worked with professionals like yourself, your process is different. And if they have worked with you in the past, your process will change over time. Plus, your clients likely have a million and seven things on their mind + may forget what happens after your initial Skype call.

It doesn’t have to be elaborate — like a custom PDF book — as long as it’s clear. In fact, it may save you work in the long run because you’ll have happier clients who send less email. If they know what to expect + know what you are working on, your clients are free to focus on the one million and six other things they are dealing with while you get to work on the next steps.

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