I make customer service a priority.
I know I can be replaced. My skills as an instructional designer and eLearning developer are not unique. There are lots of people out there who have my skills.
I like to think I’m a bit more tech-savvy than my average colleague, but then I read blog posts by Melissa Milloway or Michael Hinze and I know I’m not at their level. And I like to think I write well but I’m not unique there either. Lots of people write well.
So how can I compete? I decided I can provide superior customer service.
I work remotely, from my home. That’s not new anymore; clients are used to remote workers and it’s advantageous to them: they don’t have to find me a desk or a computer. But building trust remotely can be a challenge.
When I start with a client I set up a deliberate communications schedule. Every week, my client gets a 3 or 4 paragraph email telling them what I worked on this week. If there’s a deadline, a conference call or if I need something from them, I reiterate these dates and expectations. I also include my plan for the next week and I try to anticipate trouble spots or where I might need their help.
That email goes out on Thursday or Friday. On Monday, I call my client at a fixed, agreed-upon time. We discuss how the project is going. They let me know their struggles and we discuss the status report email. If there’s anything missing or if something isn’t going well — comments are late, a call needs to be rescheduled — those things are cleared up on the phone.
These calls last only 10 or 15 minutes but they’re important. Misunderstandings happen all the time with email and the weekly phone call helps clear up where I’m at, where the project is at, where we’re struggling or any other issue or concern. It’s also a nice way to get related and learn more about the person I’m working with. More importantly, in this era of texts and instant messengers, it makes talking on the phone a normal thing. My clients can call me any time and it doesn’t feel weird or uncomfortable.
I started a new contract this month and I was shocked to hear that this type of communication is rare. I’m replacing an eLearning contractor who billed hours but produced very little. With my weekly email summary, my clients know exactly what I worked on from one week to the next (and so do I).
Part of my job as an eLearning Designer is to create experiences for my learners. I do the same with my clients. My weekly email has exactly the same subject line every week except for the date: “XYZ training Status Report, week of 2016-04-18.” If my client wonders what I did, they simply sort their email by subject line and all my reports are listed together by date. That is, hopefully, a pleasant experience for my client that takes just a little forethought.
What are your customer-service habits? What do you do to make sure your clients are happy?