THIS is Great Customer Service

On our work-vacation this week we checked into one of our favorite hotels – the Longboat Key Hilton. Sure, it’s not a 5 Star joint, and it’s not an ultra cool boutique place either. But for years I traveled at least 3 nights a week and the reason I frequented the Hilton chain is because it is consistently clean & stylish and it ALWAYS has a business center. Most importantly, it is friendly.

We’ve stayed at this hotel at least 10 times, and every time we are met with a smile and accommodations are almost always made for my constant requests. One year we actually switched from a rare below grade Hilton down the coast and the manager of this hotel sent a champagne and cheese tray to our room to make up for the OTHER hotel’s failings. I would have been thrilled if I wasn’t 6 months’ pregnant at the time… but seriously, the gesture was greatly appreciated.

This year we show up with my 3 1/2 year old in tow at 2pm when check-in is 4:30. They didn’t have the room ready and didn’t until 4:30 on the dot. It was ok – I knew I was asking for a favor yet again, so we went for a walk on the beach, picked up some groceries and killed time. We checked in at 4:30 and started unpacking and getting settled. Within 10 minutes there was a knock on the door with a very nice fruit/cheese tray that my 3 year old ate right up. A card was enclosed thanking us for our return visit.

Now, this may seem like standard fair to a lot of you, but as a well seasoned traveler I can guarantee you it isn’t. There are hotels I’ve stayed in 100 times and they don’t know my name or acknowledge my return. It means something to me (and my family) that this hotel does, and how much extra effort did it really take?

No, I didn’t write this post to extol Hilton hotels, but this particular one is doing a lot right and I notice. It reinforces my desire to let every customer of mine know how much I appreciate the fact that they spend their money with me.

I have a very wise friend Laurie Cadden who runs a PR agency and her mantra is that EVERY interaction you have with ANYONE is PR. It’s about being considerate in your emails, picking up the phone every now and then and spending your time on people, and doing the little things consistently.

Just a little bit of profoundity to think about as we move into the next year.

Walking the Fine Line Between Great Customer Service & Working for Free

Last week I attended a NAWBO (National Association of Women Business Owners) panel discussion on the difference between great customer service and working for free; there is that fine line that almost all of us have to face with our customers. The trick is to ensure that you don’t harm your relationship with a client but still make sure you are getting paid for your services – often a huge issue for small start ups.

What our panel shared from their past experiences, both bad and good, can be summed up as:

1. Always spell out ALL of your services as specifically as possible in your contract.
3. Make sure that you have an hourly or some other rate for work above and beyond the contract – this ensures that the client understands the job is not open ended.
4. If the client has no idea what they want, you’d better have a contract that is crystal clear about how much work you’ll do for an exact dollar amount; if ‘redesigns’ or ‘rewrites’ are necessary, charges will be incurred.
5. Be prepared, especially on design or intellectual projects such as copywriting, where ‘success’ is subjective, to have THE discussion when the client keeps asking for more.

What is clear is that Communication is key, and any essential guidelines must be laid out in the contract. Being prepared to have a difficult conversation as soon as a client steps over the line is as necessary as breathing; eventually this gets easier, but it’s a slippery slope toward making no money and having a disagreement with your client if you don’t both set out your expectations clearly from the beginning.

At the end of the day getting paid what your worth is something you must think through, understand, and be able to communicate. You’ll find that your job, and life in general, are much more pleasant when you do.