A customer's relationship with your business does not end when the deal is closed and the work is done. In fact, there are many “post-sale” opportunities that could help you get extra work, or lose recurring business for good. Recurring work is an important part of the pipeline for most businesses, as we cover in another blog, but what is your business doing to foster this strong customer relationship?
One of the areas of your business where you can grow customer loyalty is invoicing. When it comes to high investment transactions, billing can be a sensitive time in a relationship, especially with new, uncertain clients. Customer loyalty will likely fall when it is handled poorly.
Usually when a customer approaches your business, it's because you're able to produce an outcome that they are unable to because they lack time, equipment, experience, resources or a combination of the above. It's not unreasonable for them to not fully understand all the ins and outs of the complex projects you undertake. However, when it comes to paying the bill, they question the “why” behind the cost of your services.
To tackle this, it's important to keep the client in the loop and be clear what you are invoicing them for. Itemising the costs on the quote and invoice can help them to breakdown and understand the full amount. It shows them exactly what they’re paying for and can help a client to feel more at ease about the value they are receiving.
This becomes even more important when there is a change to the agreed price. Sometimes mistakes happen, or jobs outgrow the initial expectations set. If you can see that the project is likely to cost your business more that it makes due to scope changes, it’s important to talk this through with the client. You may decide it's worth the financial loss to help build a stronger relationship, but it is still key that you inform the client so they can have a clear expectation around costing for the next project. If you are looking to bill the client, then be transparent and explain the additional costs as early as possible.
Customer loyalty is an emotional tie of trust, and transparency helps the customer to empathise and not feel they have been “burned” by receiving a larger than expected bill.
It’s important to show the customer what they are really buying from you. When choosing a mechanic to service a vehicle, a consumer may be willing to drive further and pay more for Mechanic A who has a 4.8 star rating on Google, instead of visiting local mechanic B, who has 3 stars. Why? Because what they are paying extra for is not the service, it's the feeling of certainty they have made the right choice.
Your clients are much more likely to walk away happy if you can get them to focus on the value of what they are buying, not the cost. You can use your quotes and invoices to tap into this intangible value. Just by highlighting what you already do for them, you can make a customer “feel” that their experience was much better. For example, if you are adding on guarantees such as a free 12 month warranty on their product, this should be included as a zero-cost line item on your quote and invoice.
It is key to work out the main benefits for using your product or service over your competitors, and highlight that. Remember that expectation plays a huge role in satisfaction and therefore loyalty, so be sure to set a steady expectation, and give yourself room to surprise and delight your customers in the relationship.
No matter if it’s businesses or consumers you target, everyone likes an easy experience. Making it easy for your customers to engage with your business at every step on the journey means they have less reasons to seek alternative solutions.
This can mean a few updates to your processes, including making sure you have adequate payment methods available to support how they do business. You may want to offer credit terms to clients to help them manage cash flow easier. This convenience when paying up can help to add-on to the customers experience, creating greater overall satisfaction with their purchase.
Another way you can make payment easier is with clear and consistent milestone invoicing. Creating clear and easy to follow milestones for your larger projects can help your customers pay-as-they-go and avoid a large single hit to their cash flow. Customers can rest easy when they trust that you are only invoicing for work done.
You can help create a smooth experience for your customers simply by understanding your own pricing. Being able to quote accurately and quickly can help to demonstrate certainty and clarity for your customers. You are also able to confidently have conversations early with customers about costs, reducing the chances for misunderstandings and poorly set expectations later on in the customer journey.
A project management system can help you understand your actual project costs and quote and invoicing easily and with accuracy. Find out more.