OK, so business is humming along smoothly. You continually turn out quality work, your employees are reliable and efficient, and your clients are happy – or are they? Many small business owners, managers and sales personnel form personal relationships with their clients. Not only do they do business together, they do lunch together. They golf. They go out for a beer. Eventually, they might even get to know one another’s families.
Nothing wrong with that. However, having such close ties to your clients begs the question: are your clients really satisfied? We’d like to believe our clients would tell us if they were unhappy. And when clients shower our work with praise, we can feel pretty confident they’re thrilled with it. But that doesn’t mean they’re not withholding thoughts that, if spoken, could have a lasting and beneficial impact on your business.
When we have close relationships with people, we don’t want to hurt their feelings or jeopardize those relationships. We might find it easy to be critical of immediate family, but even our closest clients won’t be in that circle. We can flat-out yell at people we don’t know, so long as they’re not prospective clients, because they’re not even in our orbit. But our closest clients fall between; great to share a beer and a laugh, not so great to relay all of our innermost feelings to.
The thing is, your closest clients feel the same way. They enjoy spending time with you, or they wouldn’t do it. They respect you and your work. And they care about your feelings.
The entire world isn’t full of money-grubbing business fat cats; most small business owners I know are outstanding people I’d be proud to break bread with. And as such, they’ll exhibit human behavior – such as not rocking a boat that’s sailing in the right direction, even if the water is choppy.
So, how do you know if your closest clients are truly satisfied with your work? It’s all in how you phrase the question. Instead of asking if they’re happy, ask them to help you identify ways you might improve your service. The key is to transition their response from being critical to helpful, even if they’re ultimately one-in-the-same.
Your clients understand the need and desire to grow your business, and many will be flattered if you to ask them for advice on how you can make your service more attractive to others.
If you want to solidify those all-important customer relationships (and, sometimes, friendships) and simultaneously ensure they’re happiness while improving your overall attractiveness, take the time this week to ask your clients for advice.
Then thank them.