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Otávio Banffy

4 communication tips for gaining customer trust

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Patrik Dholakiya wrote an article on Entrepreneur talking about techniques for building trust with your customer. While aimed at companies, its tips does have meaningfulness with freelancers as well. After all, freelancers are but a solo company.

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1. Give lightning-fast responses.

To provide an exceptional experience for your clients -- including those who are small business owners -- your timely response can trump all your other customer-service efforts. Most business owners understand that running a business requires hours beyond the traditional 9 to 5. Therefore, your responses to inquiries and emails shouldn't be confined to the typical workday, if you want to meet customers' needs.

There's a good chance that you've already faced at least one situation in which a client needed your immediate attention on a weekend, a holiday, your regular day off or even after your work hours.

While you can't make place work over all your life priorities, it does pay off to be accessible and take a few minutes of your day to be connected (if you can, of course) and reply to queries, even if to just make people at ease. It can help you retain a client, help that new client build confidence in your capabilities, and even save a lot of headaches for your partners and clients without much effort on your part.

People get impressed when they get a reply with a short period of time. A real, human, reply.

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2. Never under-estimate the value of small talk.

At the end of the day, clients choose to do business with people, not companies. So, building rapport with them is essential for creating long-term business relationships and better brand trust. The key here is making your business personable, to build a connection.

View this networking opportunity as a way to get to know your clients as people, not just customers. Take the time to chat with your clients as you would with friends or colleagues. Following up after an initial meeting or phone call shows that you are willing to go out of your way to provide an exceptional, humanized business experience.

In my opinion this is the best tip from the four, but there are some observations to it.

Small talk isn't really a raport-building practice. You don't become a friend particularly because you asked them about the weather. By the way, that's a very old and often lame way of getting them annoyed. Most people don't care about the weather too much. What you need to do is show interest in their lives. Be curious about their business (not necessarily their family, or hobbies), be involved.

Ask about their workflow (if it isn't something out of context or obvious already), provide value by hinting at techniques or solutions for their issues. Offer to help, take a step above everyone else. That builds rapport, interest in the other.

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3. Use a time-tested internal system.

Potential and existing clients need to feel confident in their choice of partnering with you. Informing them about the systems your business puts into practice can alleviate any concern they may have. Clients want to see that you are dependable and that the little details of their projects don't run the risk of falling through the cracks. Therefore, laying out your plan for how you will efficiently produce high-quality work, start to finish, is a wise move.

Especially useful when you are talking to a new client for the first time, laying out the details of your work can do two things:

Either breaking apart their confidence in you, or help improve it.

Some clients are just looking for a quick solution. They don't want someone to write a novel about it, they want someone to fix it. Like when you call a repairman. You want him or her to fix the issue, not give you a 10-minute worth of reading over how he's going to fix the issue.

However, when starting something new, when forming an agreement, when deciding how to tackle a project it's important that you have the details laid out for yourself, and getting access to that can make the client confident you are the right person for the job. So use your own judgement and experience with this.

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4. Talk to customers as you would to your boss.

Clients are the ones with the checkbook. So, in essence, they are your boss. While they come to you for your expertise, ultimately, they are the ones calling the shots.

Before you dive into a project, take the time to discuss their desired outcomes and clear up any confusion or possible roadblocks. Again, this comes down to clear and open communication with your clients. Don't assume the next step, and always run any changes by the client first.

Being respectful is always important. Giving the options to the client won't always work, however. Just like in the repairman case, some clients want very little to do with the system, they don't want to make decisions, they want you to take them. Part of the reason why people go looking for agencies is because they don't want to decide things for themselves.

Ironically, neither do most agencies. They just want to get their problems solved, so they hire people who can do the job and lay the responsibility on them if anything goes wrong.

So, when you are not working with an agency, but with a direct client, and you know you have an open line of communication, use that line to provide him the choices he's meant to make if he doesn't expect you to make them yourself. As a translator you need to be able to figure most aspects for yourself, but some things are exclusive to the business being translated.

That's it! Check out the full article if you want to read Pratik's reasoning and find useful and interesting links and tools you may use.

Let me know your thoughts below.

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I totally agree with point 1. Having spent a year as a Project Manager in a Translations Agency, I know the kind of pressure the PMs are put under; a fast response was something we always appreciated, to the extent that we would often prefer working with translators who replied to our emails quickly. Now, as a full-time translator again, I try to reply to emails immediately, even if it's only to say "Sorry, no more capacity this week!" or "I'm just out with the dog, but will take a look in 15 minutes when I get back!". And then I make sure that I do.

Point 2 is an interesting one. I agree but it does depend on the culture. With my main clients, who are German, I have to tread carefully as they are not known for small talk. I think it is viewed as a waste of time, but I often sneak in a little friendly comment or a smiley at the right moment and I have the feeling this goes down well, even if they don't always reciprocate!

 

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