Automating client education, training, and support doesn't replace personal interaction and meaningful engagement, it enhances and supplements it.
What makes one client experience feel extraordinary and another feel lacking?
How are some freelancers easily able to exceed clients’ expectations, while others leave clients wanting and wishing for more?
Why do some service providers consistently receive referrals to new amazing clients and others struggle to find new business?
The answer is automated customer service.
The difference between an extraordinary client experience and a lackluster client experience is careful planning. The development of documented client management systems ensures every client has the exact experience you define, consistently, over time, without fail.
Three Problems That Derail The Client Experience
Before you can learn how automated client service can improve client management and create happier, more satisfied clients, you need to understand the top three problems that most often knock client experiences off track:
1. Poor Communication
Your clients don’t know all of the details of the web design process, which is why communication is paramount to a website project’s success. Poor communication causes clients to make assumptions based on past experiences and limited knowledge.
- When a client doesn’t get a timely response to their outreach, it feels as if you don’t value them and don’t care about their success.
- When a client doesn’t know the status of their project, what happens next, or what they’re supposed to be doing, they second-guess the decision to hire you and question your capabilities.
- When a client doesn’t understand the work that’s being done or doesn’t feel equipped to make a decision you need them to make, they procrastinate opinion shop until someone helps them feel comfortable.
2. Overwhelm And Confusion
Clients are not website experts and they may not be familiar with industry jargon or the technical tasks associated with building a website. If the client doesn’t receive the proper amount of education, training, and support, they will feel overwhelmed and confused.
- Without education, clients don’t know the proper terminology and language and they struggle to understand everything you’re doing on their behalf.
- Without training, clients don’t know how to ask good questions, provide clear feedback, and participate fully in the process.
- Without support, clients will have a hard time providing deliverables on time and making timely decisions.
3. Strained Relationship
When it comes to providing extraordinary client services, you most likely have the best intentions. But when you’re busy running your business, managing projects, and juggling clients, there often aren’t enough hours in the day. As a result, small things like client care slip through the cracks and the client relationship suffers.
When there is client conflict or a client isn’t happy with the relationship:
- They don’t feel comfortable asking for help, asking questions, or admitting when they don’t know something.
- They avoid meetings, limit their interactions, and keep communications brief — all of which hurt their project’s chances of success.
- They may hold back from speaking their mind and settle for something they’re not happy with because it feels easier to not say anything.
Automated Client Services Create Consistency
I know that you’re busy. Too busy. If you’re good at what you do, you have more work than you can handle and you’re most likely struggling to conquer your to-do list and get everything done. You’re also probably struggling to find time for both the doing of the work and the management of the business.
Unfortunately, when you’re overloaded with too much work, you fall behind and soon find yourself managing your business reactively instead of proactively.
Automated client management systems provide education, training, and support to clients on your behalf without requiring any of your time.
Yes, it feels weird to talk about automation and client care in the same sentence. Automation and great client service don’t exactly sound like they belong together. Any time I speak about automating client care, I always get push back and hear arguments like:
- Automation is cold, sterile, impersonal.
- Business is supposed to be personal and automation isn’t personal.
- You can’t create strong client relationships with automation.
- People want to do business with people not software.
I get it. But these statements couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Benefits Of Automated Client Service
When you have automated client care systems in place, you will:
- Define and create the exact experience you want clients to have.
- Feel confident in the level of service you’re delivering because automated systems run without you, don’t get sick, don’t forget things, and provide a consistent experience for each and every client.
- Enjoy more flexibility in your schedule as automated systems free up your time.
- Stop worrying about repetitive administrative tasks and focus on the strategic work that matters most — the work only you can do.
- Work less for the same amount of money or fit in more projects and make more money.
- Avoid hiring another team member by automating tasks.
- Be able to go on vacations without worrying about stalling projects.
Automated client care systems will also help clients by:
- Establishing expectations and boundaries and defining clear roles.
- Providing a consistent, high-quality level of service that meets clients’ expectations.
- Delivering exactly what the client needs when the client needs it so they don’t experience overwhelm.
- Explaining the process and holding clients’ hands throughout the project so they always know exactly where the project is at, what comes next, and what they need to do.
- Empowering clients to ask questions, share feedback, and participate in the process.
Automation isn’t meant to replace client interaction and personal engagement, it is meant to enhance it and supplement it. It’s meant to complement the personal work you do with your clients. Clients understand that automation helps produce the best results and ensures that their time with you is spent on high-level, impactful, strategic work.
Automation Opportunities In Client Services
Profitable Project Plan, my business training and mentorship program for web designers and developers, covers all aspects of client communication, education, care, and delight from the first sales call through post-launch follow-up. The nine-lesson Client Management Unit covers five opportunities to automate client care and support during website projects:
1. Client Welcome
Automate the internal and client-facing tasks and communication associated with welcoming a new client to your business.
2. Client Onboarding
Automate the internal and client-facing tasks and communication associated with onboarding a new client, including education, process review, information gathering, and homework.
3. Design Guidance
4. Development Support
Automate the client communication and education associated with the development phase of the project, including what’s going on behind the scenes, what the client needs to do, and what milestones are coming up.
5. Outbound Client Care
Automate the post-launch follow-up. Now that you have been paid in full and the project is complete, ask yourself, “What additional value could I offer clients through automation that would guarantee a fantastic testimonial?”
Getting Started With Automation
Again, client service automation isn’t to limit your interactions with the client or replace client conversations but to improve communication with clients and better educate, care for, and support them along the way.
If you provide projects for a flat fee, you have a very specific number of hours allocated to project management, client management, and production. Automating repetitive administrative tasks and communication items helps protect those hours and ensure your time is dedicated to important work: strategy, design, and development.
With client management automation in place, you’ll:
- Have larger blocks of uninterrupted time to produce quality work you are proud of
- Provide extraordinary client service and a better work product
- Enjoy larger margins and higher profits on every project
- Create happier clients who hire you for additional services and refer others your way
- Receive better testimonials
My first automated system reduced administrative time spent on projects by 50%!
Start Small, Ramp Up
Now, if you’ve read this and thought to yourself, “I know I need to do this, but creating automated client care systems sounds like a lot of work,” you’re not wrong. I’m not going to sugarcoat it. I spent hundreds of hours carefully planning, testing, tweaking, and refining my processes and automation.
At the same time, you’re probably making out to be much harder than it needs to be because you’re thinking of everything you want to implement across your entire business. That my friend will create massive overwhelm in minutes.
Instead, identify a small, repetitive area of your business that could benefit from a documented, automated system and start there. Figure out what tasks you’re consistently repeating, document the process, and create a system you can automate to handle it for you.
When I began creating the systems that are now a part of Profitable Project Plan, I didn’t create them all at once. I documented, created, tested, and refined one small system at a time, which also meant that I was improving my business as I worked and could reap the rewards right away.
Your Next Steps
You can do this. Here’s what I want you to do to get started:
- Document your daily tasks for 3-6 months and identify tasks you repeat over and over.
- Note the items that cause you the most anxiety and stress and pick one.
- Figure out what you could create and automate to take that one item off your plate.
- Outline what needs to happen to make that a reality in a simple to-do list.
- Begin with one thing and work your way through the list until you’re done.
Once you begin implementing automated client care systems in your business, I promise that you’ll wish you did it a long time ago. At least, that’s how I felt and it’s the feedback I hear most often from members of Profitable Project Plan who get access to my systems and everything they need to implement them in their web design businesses!
If you know you need client management systems and you also know you don’t have time to reinvest the wheel and start from scratch, you should check out the program, the success stories, and the curriculum. Enrollment opens in November and those on the Priority Notifications list will receive a limited-time offer to enroll at 50% off!
This article was originally written for GoDaddy.