Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Make It Easy for Clients = Saving Time & Money

I'm not one to normally rant, but yesterday I had a string of experiences that really frustrated me. What frustrated me the most was how time and money were being wasted because companies didn't make it easy enough for their clients to get what they needed, when they needed it. I guess part of this frustration has been spurred on by listening to The Long Tail, which talks about serving more niche customers in more immediate ways. Here are some of my recent frustrations, with proposed solutions. Hopefully one of these can directly benefit some of you out there, or at least encourage you to evaluate ways in which you can make it easier for your customers to get what they want, when they want it.

1. Be accessible
Someone buzzed my studio because it was the first one listed in the building directory. They wanted information about renting space in the building. I gave her directions to the landlord's location, but she probably didn't make it there. The landlord should have had their contact information clearly posted in the lobby of the building so that anyone would be able to get in touch with them immediately about renting space. They may have lost a potential client because they didn't make their contact information readily available, and they frustrated me- a current resident, by turning me into their personal secretary. They could even go one step further and post the current lease rates for their space so that only the interested parties would contact them directly- saving them time and money on potential inquiries that weren't eligible.

2. Give all the information up front
I received a notice in the mail about paying the balance on an account. The notice didn't say how much was owed, only gave a phone number and address. I called the phone number and it was busy. I called the phone number later and it was busy. I called the phone number the next day and it was busy. I shouldn't have even needed to call. If they had put the information about what I owed in the original notice, I could have simply written a check and mailed it off. Instead, I ended up in a series of frustrating phone calls with no response. I'm guessing that all of those busy signals were from other people trying to get the same information I needed. If they put the amount in the original notice, they could have saved their staff time spent on the phone, and maybe they would have had an open phone line to deal with more serious questions.

3. Be easy to navigate
In order to make a payment, I needed to go to a particular building so that I could talk to someone in person and find out what I owed. I get to the building and there's no signage to point me in the right direction. I'm trying to give them MONEY, and they make it difficult by not making it obvious where people need to go to talk to someone. I stop at the first door I see and bother someone who's in a completely unrelated department in order to find out where I need to go. I wonder how many times a day THAT happens! If you aren't going to have a receptionist in your building, at least have really good signs so that people get where they need to go without feeling embarrassed or like they're an inconvenience to someone else. Better yet, if you're in a building with a lot of other studios and there's no directory, but maybe there's an intercom- meet your clients at the door and escort them where they need to go.

4. Eliminate chances for confusion
When you're giving someone a count, always count down.. 3-2-1. If you count up 1-2-3... the people you're counting for won't know what number they need to be ready for (unless you tell them ahead of time) and you may have to start over. No one gets confused when you count backwards.

5. Pictures sell better than words
Pictures are quick and easy, words are only meant to provide additional information. I can't tell you how many product websites have completely lost my business because they didn't have a picture of what they were trying to sell. How in the world am I supposed to know if your product is one that appeals to me if I can't even see it!? If you don't have a picture of a product easily available to your customers, don't expect to sell that product. Help your customers make decisions quickly and easily by giving them as many visual references as possible. We don't all speak the same language, but we can better understand something if we can see it.

6. Speed up decision making with suggested packages/items
It never fails- I take forever to make a decision about what I want to eat when there are too many items on the menu. The more choices, the more time I spend pouring over the various aspects of each dish and how they may or may not appeal to my palette. Inevitably I ask the waiter what they recommend and hope to make a decision from that. It's nice to have options, but it's also nice to have a small selection of suggested items - like the daily specials to help narrow the selection and give me an idea of what's recommended by the chef/food expert. If you find that your clients aren't able to make decisions quickly about hiring you, or that they need more time to think about what they want, than you probably haven't made it easy enough for them to make a decision quickly.

What can you change to make things easier and more immediate for your clients?

Revised: Kim Kelley offered a GREAT suggestion in the comments below and I thought it was so important that I wanted to make sure it was included in the post!
"What's even more frustrating is when you offer feedback to the business, but then have to wonder if they even care what you think. I guess I would add, encourage feedback from your customers and actually listen when they offer it."

Anne Ruthmann is a lifestyle & wedding photographer from Boston, MA. She spent 10 years in the corporate & non-profit world before pursuing her passion for photography. When not behind the computer or camera, she can be found exploring the world with her husband. Follow her on Twitter.

4 comments:

  1. wonderful wonderful advice. making life easier for our clients means $$$ that is not being lost (because as a level of frustration goes up the profit goes down).

    Love your blog!!

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  2. Anne, that is great advice! What's even more frustrating is when you offer feedback to the business, but then have to wonder if they even care what you think. I guess I would add, encourage feedback from your customers and actually listen when they offer it. Thanks Anne for all you do!

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  3. Great tips there! Thank you.

    Going to be reading your blog more often!!

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  4. Thanks Anne thats great. With your comment about words to pictures I think you need words to back up the pictures particurlarly for something like wedding photography. You have a fair bit of text on your site and if people are sold on your pictures they will still want to know more; what your like, how you charge,
    how you operate etc. Having said that I think your site is excellent, besides beautiful images people know a lot about you and how you operate which Im sure will help in their decision to choose you. I have just launched a wedding photography site having been an editorial, occasional commercial photographer for 20 years www.xiss.com.au

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