Respect and Communication
We are coming up to our 2nd anniversary in business. Its been fun but it is not all rainbows and unicorns, we have had some tough times and made some mistakes. But it is nice to learn from those and carry on building a better business.
We have found that two major factors in running a good business is respect and communication. This is particularly true for a service industry such as ours, where you have to deliver a product that is personal for a business and you also want to nurture an ongoing business relationship.
To begin with I thought a web design business would be about web design, and it is, but only partly. The product we create has to meet the needs of our client and their customers. If you want to make an effective product you have to think of its usefulness for your client's customers. If their customers don't use it and your client is not engaged with it, it will not work and you will not have ongoing work.
To deliver an effective product you need to:
- Listen - Determining the needs of your client and their customers takes communication. You need to listen to your client and ask relevant questions to find the purpose of the product. Divining and documenting this purpose will give both you and your client a clear objective. This can also be used to set metrics to measure effectiveness. This listening will produce great results and start a dialogue with your client that should last many years.
- Process Transparency - This is common business courtesy that can really set you apart from your competition. A lot of businesses do not provide this. Many times as a customer you do not receive information about the process, timeframe or even costs of work being done for you. Even if you do, businesses can then ride roughshod over their own estimates without telling you.Process Transparency is communication with your client about all aspects of the job that will effect them. Time and cost is the most important I have found. If either of these are going to change let your client know. Other communication about the project will depend on the client, some people will like to know every step, others will just want you to get it done. But time and cost is what every client will want to know about. We strive to stick with our initial timeframe estimates, but if things change we let our client know straight away. Relating to costs, good communication in step one normally ensures this can remain unchanged. But if the process is more fluid our client is aware of potential changes.
- Respect - This is another common courtesy. Your client knows their business. You know yours. During communication it is important to be courteous and thoughtful, they may feel inhibited about their lack of knowledge of your industry and you certainly don't know theirs as well as they do. This respect will build a strong relationship and aid communication.
- Keep in touch - The final important aspect of communication is to keep in touch. This can be an informal phone call or email to enquire about your client or their business. A formal process like a monthly client newsletter, or a scheduled review of your product. The idea here is to remind your client you are around and available. They may be in a position to retain you for more work or it might just be an opportunity to catch up.
When the communication channel between you and your client is free flowing, you will be amazed at the benefits to the product you are delivering and profitability for both you and your client. The synergy you generate will create a much better and more effective result.