Customer service is critical in our businesses, and we want our clients to always feel like they are the most important person in our world. But there can be issues if you blur the lines of what’s appropriate and what isn’t. Here are 3 boundaries I always set with my clients that help forge fabulous (and ongoing) relationships!
1. Text with Caution
It’s almost impossible NOT to text with your clients today. It’s become such a common way to “talk” that many clients expect you to text with them. So if you do decide that’s ok, just proceed with caution. Personally, I do not like texting unless it is because someone is running late for a meeting. For example, I never let the client make decisions or ask design questions only via text, because if you open it and forget about the message, you are doing THEM and their design a disservice. This is when things fall through the cracks. YUCK!
If you have an important text conversation with your client about products, design changes, or anything critical, recount that discussion with an email. You want to have documentation available for the future, just in case there’s an issue. I like to clarify and confirm any texts or phone conversations with follow-up emails – especially on my Friday client emails. It just keeps things clear! Also, be careful about allowing your assistants to text with clients. I don’t recommend that because it can lead to even more trouble later.
2. Time to Unplug
A few weeks ago we talked on this blog about the fact that very few things in design are emergencies. So your client shouldn’t need to text you at 11pm, or while you’re on vacation, or have to call you on a Saturday night. And you are in control of whether you answer or not, never forget that. Early in a client relationship, I might answer a late-night text with: “I’ll get back to you when I’m in the office!” Polite, but firm. That lets the client know what my boundaries are. And I communicate during working hours with my clients a lot! That way they shouldn’t have any questions, and they’ll know when I’m on vacation or off for the day. But if you make a habit out of answering your clients at any time of day and under any circumstances, they’ll come to expect it. So set that boundary early!
3. Extra Extra
Have you ever started a project that includes the interiors of a home, only to have a client start to ask you what she should do in the outdoor spaces? Next thing you know, you’ve designed an extra 750 square feet of space – for FREE! UGH! It’s easy to get pulled into an extra room, or to give free advice, but we are professionals! This is our business, and our clients are technically not our friends – they are customers. You should never allow them to add on extra work without any additional pay.
When my client wants to talk about adding work, I’ll tell her that I’m happy to give her a new proposal for that work. Or that we can talk about an addendum to our contract. That sets a boundary and lets her know that I don’t work for free, but without being insulting or rude.
Setting boundaries like these is SO important to keeping your business running smoothly, and for avoiding serious issues with your clients. You need to manage their expectations so everyone is clear. To help you, I’ve developed this Guide to Setting Client Expectations – download it here FREE! And start setting your boundaries today!