Outside contracted services do things for us that are beyond our skill set or are best done by a specialist. One frustration we, as customers, typically face is not knowing what is expected of us to get the most out of these services.
If you are in a service business, or even a production business, don’t just expect that your customers or clients know what is required of them. Let them know what, when and where they have to perform. Avoid time sensitive surprises and remove their anxiety with good advance information.
Mutual Expectations. Make it clear what you do and what you don’t do. Make it clear what your client or customer has to do. Even though it’s all spelled out in the contract, give them a quick reference, bullet point list of each other’s responsibilities.
Contacts and Roles. Just because you know who does each function on your side doesn’t mean they do. Send them a chart that clearly shows the chain of command and the division of specialties with names and contact info of all who will be responsible for their project.
Key Approvals. Identify the key decisions that need to be made in advance. Give them a list with a timeline of when their approval is required, and why. They may be new at this, or new to your company, which are even greater reasons to hold their hand. Your customer will feel you are easy to work with.
Timelines. Outline the process in a graphic form and give it to them at the outset. It should depict the duration and turnaround times for each step, the points at which their decision will be required, and the amount of time they have to make a decision in order to meet the deadline. Flesh it out early and update it often with real dates. Your client can then plan their vacations, trips and schedules so they will be available when needed.
Deadlines. In order to achieve the desired deadline that your customer desires, educate them about the milestones that must be achieved. When one is missed, immediately update your timeline with the new milestones and deadlines. It’s better to tell your customer the moment you know that there has been a delay. Whether caused by them or you, they will hold you responsible for any delay they are not made aware of.
Sole Responsibility. In the eyes of your customers, you are the one responsible for the outcome of the project – even when you sub out various parts of the job. Sub-contractors require your oversight, monitoring and vigilance. Understand your customers’ needs, what they want, why they want it, and what purpose they will put it to. Learn who their buyers are and how you can help increase their sales.
Put yourself in your customers’ shoes and imagine yourself as a first-time user of your own services. Then you will begin to understand what they need to give you the reputation you want.
Advance these courtesies up front with timely announcements, schedules, updates and reminders. Avoid anxiety that can taint the value of your product or service. Proactively answer your clients’ questions and concerns, and view the entire relationship as an opportunity for your company to gain and retain a satisfied customer.
Who Are We.
Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey co-authored the New York Times bestselling business book, The Barefoot Spirit: How Hardship, Hustle, and Heart Built America’s #1 Wine Brand. The book has been selected as recommended reading in the CEO Library for CEO Forum, the C-Suite Book Club, and numerous university classes on business and entrepreneurship. It chronicles their humble beginnings from the laundry room of a rented Sonoma County farmhouse in 1986, to the board room of E&J Gallo, where they successfully sold their brand in 2005. Barefoot is now the world’s largest wine brand.
Beginning with virtually no money and no wine industry experience, they employed innovative ideas to overcome obstacles, create new markets and forge strategic alliances. They pioneered Worthy Cause Marketing and performance-based compensation. They offer their Guiding Principles for Success (GPS) to help entrepreneurs become successful and help corporations achieve entrepreneurial cultures to engage and empower their people.
Currently they travel the world keynoting at universities, corporations, conferences and symposiums. They are regular media guests and contributors to international publications and professional journals; along with being FOX News Radio Network’s Workplace Culture Experts. They are also the recipients of the 2014 Distinguished Entrepreneur Speaker Award from the Turner School of Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Bradley University. Visit their popular brand building site at www.thebrandauthority.net. To make inquiries for keynote speaking, trainings or consulting, please contact .
Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey
-Barefoot Wine Founders