It’s no secret that happy clients lead to more business. Whether they commission you for a second project or share your name via positive word-of-mouth, investing in your current clients’ happiness is one of the most efficient ways to grow your clientele and find better, more rewarding work. In fact, if you focus on referrals, you may not have to invest as much in marketing; your happy customers could give you better exposure than any marketing effort ever could.
Another strong reason to keep your clients happy is that unhappy clients — compared to happy ones — are several times more likely than to share their (negative) experiences with others. But, if you can manage to turn an unhappy client into a happy one, controlled studies have shown that clients with resolved problems become more loyal than happy clients who had no problems to begin with. Whether your clients ran into problems with their projects or not, it’s crucial to make sure that in the end, your clients walk away smiling and satisfied.
Here are four tips that have helped us grow our business, gather more clients, and make our customers happier.
Initiate Conversations Instead of Responding
During any particular project, your client will have a strong need for updates. Rightly so, they will always want to know what is going on, how the project is progressing, if there are any challenges, or if everything is progressing on schedule. If we know their needs, why not anticipate their questions? The principle of anticipating customer inquiries is used very effectively on large retail sites like Amazon.com. Amazon rarely has to respond to questions like “has my order been shipped yet?” because they expect the question and preemptively deliver the answer. This accomplishes two things: it increases efficiency by saving staff from answering the same common client questions, and it also makes the clients themselves very happy to get the information they were seeking without ever having to ask. You could accomplish the same two goals with your own clients. Keep communication lines open, provide updates preemptively, and place multiple “just because” calls. Your clients will love it, and surprisingly enough, it could actually save time in the long run.
Manage Expectations and Emphasize App Versions Early in the Process
No app is perfect on version 1.0, and it’s amazing how quickly clients forget this certainty. Perfection on the first effort is nearly impossible, since we are building based on our best assumptions. Once users start interacting with the app, its strengths and weaknesses will be quite apparent. This common process provides a good opportunity to talk with your clients about versioning. Show your client how most of their favorite apps have had many iterations and updates. Putting quality aside, gently and honestly educating your client in versioning (and managing their expectations of effortless perfection) will most likely lead to more work. If you don’t, you’ll probably end up with disappointed clients who had impossibly high expectations for version 1.0.
Give Your Client an Unexpected Gift
Its not the size of the gift, but the gesture itself that makes a positive impression. In most cases, a hand-written card, a gadget, or a tchotchke (also known as “swag”) expressing your appreciation will do. Gifts and gestures can have a strong impression, since clients do not expect them. The surprise becomes permanently memorable, and it’s a great way to distinguish yourself from less thoughtful competitors. Many app developers have the software skills to get the job done, but showing off rare client relations prowess can lead to a lot of goodwill for very little effort, and ultimately, more work, glowing referrals, and a longer list of clients. If the gift is particularly interesting, it may spark some serious interest and even act as an incentive that compels prospects to become customers. After all, only clients who have executed a work agreement can get those nifty trinkets.
Add an Out-of-Scope Feature
If the project allows, add an out-of-scope feature. We have added features like analytics reporting and crash reporting into apps for free. These features are, of course, very important, but sometimes clients simply don’t know to ask for them. Adding them for free will go a long way in terms of investing in your clients happiness. Obviously, not all projects allow for this tip. If you can’t include an out-of-scope feature yourself, we suggest guiding your clients towards relevant services that help them market, refine, and curate their app. The simple gift of expert knowledge can impress a client, and given the very low cost of providing a few recommendations, it could pay off in spades.
Do you have any proven methods for keeping clients happy? Do you think the recipe for happy clients is simply “doing what you said you would do,” or “keeping your project on deadline and under budget.” Or, are there other ways to please your clients that don’t fall within the scope and process of a typical software project?