Making sure that you keep your clients happy is an important part of running a successful consulting business. As you get new clients, you'll inevitably come across people who may not be satisfied with your work performance. This can happen for a variety of reasons, some of which may even be out of your control. A simple personality clash is enough to instigate client dissatisfaction, but where possible, your consulting business should aim to keep customers happy.
This is necessary for a variety of reasons:
- Satisfied customers are more likely to renew their contracts with you.
- They are also more likely to recommend your consulting business to friends and social contacts.
- Keeping your customers happy improves your reputation and gives you a competitive edge against your contemporaries.
As a consulting business, your client relationships operate on a contractual basis. By keeping your clients satisfied, you increase the chances of running your own successful business by getting more projects and contracts.
What are the common reasons behind customer dissatisfaction for consulting businesses?
Although customer dissatisfaction can spring from a variety of reasons, many of the common reasons can easily be avoided.
Clients tend to be most upset when you:
- Fail to deliver on your words.
- Miss your deadlines.
- Don't communicate effectively.
- The perceived value of your services was not equal to the sum the client paid for your services.
Consulting has become a competitive field, and this means that you want to keep as many clients as possible. Many consulting businesses enter into retainership agreements with their clients. Some work with their clients regularly on a contractual basis. For a consulting business, a client is lost if they don't renew their contract with you. To avoid this, you have to ensure that you have done everything on your part to avoid customer dissatisfaction.
1) Ask Yourself the Right Questions
There's no point in exclusively focusing on customer satisfaction if it comes at the detriment of your consulting business. Many consulting firms offer lower prices in an effort to be competitive. But if your rates are too low, you won't be making proper returns on investment.
Understanding where you stand as a consulting business is the first step in building a brand reputation, as well as increasing customer satisfaction. In this step, you outline basic questions:
- How are your customer relationships? Can they be improved?
- How are your prices? How well do they fare against your competitors?
- How good are you at negotiating with your clients?
- How is your post-contract client care package? Are you available for them if they get in touch with you after the project is over?
- How likely is your client to recommend your services to others?
For a consulting business, these are important questions. Knowing the answers to these will help you understand what a client is likely expecting from you.
When it comes to prices, for example, the ideal price range is the average of what your competitors are charging. If your rates are too low, a client may question your capability. If the rates are too high, clients may avoid your business because you're too expensive.
Similarly, if you discover that your post-care services are not up to par, you can develop guidelines on how to better care for your clients.
2) Communicate Regularly
Effective communication is key to running a successful consulting business. You want to make your clients a part of the process by keeping them aware of your progress.
Regular communication also helps resolve the all too common issue around miscommunication. Send your clients weekly reports on the project, as well as monthly progress reports. Between projects, you can send your client industry updates as well. This will help you in two ways.
First, it reminds the client of your services. This increases the chances of them bringing another project to you. Second, it informs the client that you are well versed in the latest developments within the industry. This shows your business as a knowledgeable resource to turn to.
3) Build Customer Profiles
Understanding your client is necessary if you want to continue doing business with them. Different people will present unique challenges to you - some clients may prefer little interaction with your firm, while others may want regular updates from you.
You may meet clients who express dissatisfaction with your work, while others happily recommend you to friends. The best way to understand your client is to build a customer profile around them.
This helps you by presenting you with data on who they are, what their expectations are from your consulting business, and how you can best help them reach their goals.
Remember to see expectations early on. You don't want to be put in a situation where your client wants you to perform duties that are outside the purview of your job profile. Similarly, some clients may also want to obtain more work at lesser prices. Sometimes, clients may also expect the impossible.
Keeping their expectations met is an important part of avoiding customer dissatisfaction. You can detail the specifics of your job profile, the length of the contract, as well as payment-related information within the contract as well.
4) Consistent Quality Work
To establish yourself as a reputed consulting business that your clients can keep coming back to, you need to be consistent with your work. This doesn't only include the specifics of the project, but also other parts of customer service as well.
Do you respond to clients promptly? If they face problems, do you offer solutions to those problems? Your clients may get angry and make harsh remarks. But as a consulting business, you should stay calm, provide workable solutions to problems, and find ways to address the situation at hand.
Consistency over time develops trust and loyalty among customers. A loyal customer is one who is likely to renew their contract with your consulting business and bring in regular profits.
5) Listen to your Customers
Often, a customer will directly tell you if they are dissatisfied. By listening to your customers, you gain the opportunity to prevent similar issues from presenting themselves in the future.
Isolate the weaknesses in your consulting business, and improve them in a way where it enhances customer experience. When you listen to your customers, you also make them feel validated, and this can work wonders in diffusing a tense situation.
A consulting business can try a lot of things as mentioned above to keep their customers happy and come back for more business. However, sometimes you may have a few unhappy customers as a part of the business. A consulting business should consider having professional liability insurance to protect them from these types of risks.