Being professional is much easier said than done, and there are a lot of us who think we “have it”, but we really don’t. Although I do focus on graphic design, I have a lot of experience in customer service, and I always have something to say that could improve habits that you currently have.
Let’s break this down to 4 categories
1. Your Approach
2. Your Social Media
3. Solving Issues
4. Email Etiquette
When talking about “approach”, I am speaking on the first impression that you give potential clients, whether in person or online.
· A lot of business owners can get so worked up in the fact that they are getting big out here that they begin to treat clients like they are doing THEM a favor. Always remember, without your clients you have NO business. You should approach clients like they are doing YOU a favor. We as consumers feel when we are not being appreciated and when we are being rushed. This means, smile, thank them and make them feel like you are very grateful for their service.
· In person, you should be giving clients your full-undivided attention and enthusiasm. Let me give an example of how I felt treated unappreciated when purchasing an item from a vendor at an event. I walked up to the table smiling as I always do. Both sellers were on their phones. As I got closer one just looked up. I said “Hello!” Then they both spoke [Error #1 in my book! Why am I speaking to you first?] I saw no smiles on neither of the girls faces [Error #2. Not enthused or friendly]. I was not told about the products or the costs. [Error #3, if someone is at your table. TELL THEM ABOUT THE PRODUCTS!] So I asked, “What’s in this drink? How much is it?” One girl answered me. I asked did they take cash app, she handed me her phone to get the cash app tag. I typed it in my phone and sent the money. I waited a couple of beats…… “Did you get the money?” I asked, she said yes…I said thank you, got my drink and walked away. [Error #4, as a fellow business owner, I expected a “thank you”!] This wasn’t the worst scenario, but it definitely reminded me of how many people lack good customer service skills and probably see no problem with it because they were not straight up “Rude.” Your client should never be more enthused than you are.
· Email… Yikes. There are so many things that can be said about email approaches. You definitely should be greeting them and thanking them for considering you. Here is an example of how not to approach potential clients who email you. Again, no this is not the worst scenario, but it definitely shows how simple it can be to turn someone off as it definitely turned me off from her services, no matter how good she was at makeup.
Some may think I am extra for giving her my advice, but I really do think more people will benefit from hearing constructive criticism rather than having people pass them up without them knowing why. In the “Email Etiquette” section, I will touch more on good formatting of your emails and how to present yourself as a business and not just a person who sells things.
Social media kind of tags along with the approach in some ways. Your social media for your business should definitely represent you professionally, not you personally. With that being said, make sure to have a separate page for business and personal posts. Some people post their personal posts on business and it may work for them for now. But if you want to be broadened to a larger crowd, you will want to adjust for sure. Not only do incomers not care to see your selfies all the time, they really do not want to see your personal feelings towards whatever subject is poppin’ right now. If I am coming to your page to see your portfolio, I do not want to see you arguing with people about if R. Kelly was right or not. No matter what you really feel about it and how many people agree with you, you will turn away many people with your personal opinions and it just is not professional at all to mix these posts with your business.
Your personal page. Should you have to watch what you say? In MY opinion, your personal page is where you can express freedom and ideas. My pages are all public, and I do not try to be a conservative on those sources at all, but one thing that I try not to do is complain, vent or go off about a client. I have seen it umpteenth times in my life, and it really leaves a bad taste in people’s mouths. The timeline does not need to see how frustrated you are at people complaining about your prices, or about how tired you are of people coming late, or how you hate how people inquire about services but don’t come through. It is tacky and unprofessional to even be worrying publicly about those things. People are going to complain about your prices sometimes, oh well! People may be late sometimes, so enforce a LATE FEE. People will continually inquire but not follow through, that is PERFECTLY FINE! That is why they are “Inquiring”, people can not always afford you and some like to weigh all of their options. Stop taking things personally, because most of these things that you vent about happen to every business owner.
Please do not let your social media appear as hostile, this is also something that has drawn me far away from certain businesses. Your bio, highlights, posts and comments should not ever seem to be made out of spite or frustration. Again, tacky and unprofessional. I literally have seen the following things listed in various people’s bio’s, highlights and posts and I stepped right off of their page.
o “DO NOT DM ME FOR PRICES, I WILL NOT RESPOND” First of all why are you yelling? If you really do not want people to DM you for inquiries, a simple “Please email Thebaddest@gmail.com for inquiries. No DMs” is fine
o “No shows will be BLOCKED, Period!” It’s understood, but this is not a welcoming statement that needs to be in your bio, highlights or posts.
o “If you are not deposit ready, do not contact me!” I see this all too much, and it really is extremely rude. People should have the right to contact you without being ready at that moment to book you.
o “I DO NOT INSTALL OLD HAIR!!!” Why you yelling? Let people know this in a confirmation text/email if it is not on your website, please.
o “Don’t request someone else’s work to me” If you run into these situations and you really are one of those ones who hate when people ask you to do something that another person in your field did, you should deal with them on case-by-case basis. Posting something like this is a turn off.
While some things that you put in your bio are your true policies, and you want people to know these things before booking, there are 1. Nicer ways for things to be said and 2. Ways to go about these policies, such as contracts or confirmation texts/emails (Which I highly recommend) just make sure you are not appearing as hostile. Yes, most of our rules are made due to frustrating clients, but the world does not need to know or feel that.
This is something that most people don’t know how to handle because they either don’t have business issues or complaints often, they will not tolerate any crazy talk and will let you know, or because they refuse to ever admit fault. Solving issues in your business correctly will really make it worth YOUR while in the long run.
· Why do issues arise in business? Issues come up because the customer is not happy for some reason. As the owner or worker, you must figure out why they are not happy and you need to see what you can do to alleviate the problem. To do this, you must first and most importantly LISTEN. If you do not fully understand their complaint, ask questions to get down to the bottom of it. Don’t jump into solving something that someone did not fully explain or that you don’t understand.
· After you know what the issue stemmed from, recognize who is responsible. Let’s say that the customer is responsible for the issue. There are so many examples that I could give, but usually when the customer is “responsible”, it is because of a lack in understanding of a policy that you have. If your policy is in a contract or written form that they were sent, GREAT! If not, you may want to help compensate them in some way. If it was in written form, you will need to pull up that form and reiterate the policy WITHOUT saying “This is actually your fault”. If you are not going to refund/exchange them, make sure they understand why you cannot do that, but offer them other solutions.
· If you are responsible, you really should be doing what you can to make sure they are compensated properly. Sometimes in business, we have to take losses. We all HATE it, but if you are at fault, it needs to be done. If they ask for a refund and it is in your means to give one, give it. If they would like to exchange, exchange it. If you are able to offer them a deal on the next order, do that. Just make sure that even though they are frustrated, they will not leave you with the ability to tell others about how terrible you were at handling the issue.
· If it is an issue that was potentially none of the parties “fault”, you still should see what is in your means to do to solve this issue. Sometimes it is the mail carriers fault, sometimes it is Wi-fi’s fault, whatever it is, the customer is contacting you to see what you can do to help. No, you should not have to take a big loss when solving issues that were not your fault, you also don’t have to take a loss at all, so figure out something that will help your client leave you smiling, and that will leave you a good review.
· Aside from potential compensation, you should show empathy. This shows customers that you care, and also really does remind customers that you are human too and that you understand their frustration. “I am so sorry for the inconvenience” goes a long way. Offering a substitute also goes a long way. Even if you are not at fault, a “Sorry for the misunderstanding/inconvenience”, is professional and necessary. At the end of your conversation with this person, thank them again for their business.
· Take the criticism that they give you. That speaks for itself. If someone tells you that they did not like the quality of something, you should be in research to learn how to change that. If someone complains that you should have gave them $5 off since you were 20 minutes late, you may want to consider that.
· Now when dealing with issues, you will sometimes run across people who are rude. You cannot, no matter what, respond to them with the same energy that they’ve given to you. Although we are human and may have smart mouths ourselves, we cannot let that pour into our business. If the issue was your fault and the person is rude, you still have the responsibility to make sure that they are taken care of to a certain extent. After they are taken care of, you have no more obligations to wait on them. If the fault was on them, you still need to make sure they understand the policy and you should still show empathy and understanding. I will give two examples of how things went differently when dealing with rude clients.
-Client A paid for a logo in full. The turn around time was 12-14 business days. We were approximately on day 8. At this time, the client asked about a phone consultation. I listed off to her the times that I was available to do that. She said that none of those times would work for her and because of that, she’d like her money back. She sent 2-3 emails saying she needed her refund “NOW”. I let her know that I was sorry about the inconvenience and that I would refund her partially (Excluding the deposit, because her logo was in progress). She responded rudely about how nothing was shown yet for the $50 deposit, and that I must need the money. At this point I just reiterated the contract that stated the refund policy, gave a summary of the design process and ended the email with “Sorry about the inconvenience, & Happy Holidays ”
-Client B was shipped a banner, and was told her tracking number. 5 days later, client let me know that she had not received it. I tracked the package and saw that it said it was delivered to her apartment. She said that it must have gotten stolen in the mailroom. I let her know how deeply sorry I was for this incident because I do truly know the pain of having mail stolen. At this point, we had to file an insurance claim, which takes time itself and does not always get approved. She let me know that she needed the banner in 1 day. If you can guess, I did not have the means or responsibility to purchase another banner and also have it to her in 1 day, free of charge. As an alternative, I told her that I could have a large poster printed for her for only $20. She then cursed me out and called me foul names, saying that I should take responsibility and overnight a new banner. At this point, when being called out of my name, I decided to not proceed anything further with this client. I simply told her one last time that I was sorry about the inconvenience and that I hopes she has a great night.
You do not have to continue to deal with disrespect, but you do need to make sure you are not disrespectful in return.
Find your peaceful place, and remember that unhappy clients just wish they had what they envisioned. People have a right to be frustrated, so try to connect with that and solve problems as you have the means to do so.
Now, email etiquette when running your business is something that a lot of people really don't think about. It probably won't make or break many people from considering you to work with, but it will with certain people and that still matters. Aside from that fact, you should just want to present yourself professionally no matter what. If you plan on broadening your market, you definitely need to work on how you deliver customer service through email.
The verbiage of your emails should be somewhat like my example above where I gave my advice to the makeup artist. Of course, it doesn't have to be exact like that, but you should start greeting and thanking clients and speaking to them in ways that make them feel welcomed and grateful.
Grammar is also very important when emailing customers. Some will disregard bad grammar, but there are people out here (like me), who expect for businesses to be able to word an email correctly with correct grammar and spelling. Of course, we all have typos sometimes, but making a habit of checking over your emails is a good practice. I have read certain people's emails that were spoken in such bad grammar that I didn't even understand what they were saying. Make sure you are being clear and presenting yourself as though you've been doing this all your life.
Sometimes we check emails on the go. I check emails on my phone all the time. Please just remember to erase the "Sent by iPhone" at the end of the email before pressing "send". Replace that with your signature!
Other than what you are saying, the format of your emails are also important. Do not type in run-in sentences, using no punctuation and no breaks in between what you are saying. That is the quickest way for you to look unprofessional. You can google "Email format" to see pretty much the same thing, but your emails should be in letter form:
Hello [Insert Name Here]
Greet your client, address what they are requesting of you, and thank them for considering your services! How are you? I definitely can help create your brand's logo, thank you for considering me to help with this.
Make new paragraphs when new information is given. This can include your prices and other information about the services
Lovely Business Owner [Your Business Name]
Lovely Bradford [Your Name]
555-555-1000 [Your Phone #]
555-553-1000 [Your Fax Number if you have one]
LovelyBusiness.com [Your Website]
2833 Lovely Street Suite 3 [Address If You're Fancy]
Overall, make sure your business is always being represented with respect and professionalism. When reaching for the stars, as we all are, we have to hold ourselves to a higher standard than we may have in the past.
Thanks for reading!