MAINTAINING CLIENT RELATIONSHIPS
Both designers and clients agree that an important key to client satisfaction is to
keep your clients posted throughout each job. When you pay attention to
building and maintaining excellent communications with your clients, they feel
that you are providing excellent service. And that gives you a competitive edge.
STAY IN TOUCH
It isn’t easy to keep up communication, which is why many designers let this
important aspect of their business lapse. You need to be thoroughly organized,
and you need to maintain an overview of the status of all of your jobs. Graphic
designer Shamus Alley of New York City says it took him some time to find a
tracking formula that really works. In the beginning days of his career, he came
up with his own simple version, which he still uses years later.
We had a dry erase board that we put all of our clients’ names on. We used
different colored markers, which depicted the status of each job. Green
was finished, yellow was waiting for materials/revisions, and red was deadline
coming, “get it done!” We also had symbols that reminded us of the
pay status of each job. We developed a code so we could tell if there was
money owed or if the client was all paid up; that way we could monitor the
status of payment, but clients or visitors didn’t realize what we were
tracking. That system worked great for us.
Alley’s scoreboard is especially appropriate, because it is on display as a constant
visual reminder of his whole business picture at any given time. Visual
reminders will obviously work better for visual people. (Other types might
prefer to keep their files neatly tucked away out of sight.) Maintaining a visual
overview like Alley’s reminds the designer when it’s time to be proactive—when
to notify the client of changes or simple updates of the status of the job.
You should be sending messages to your clients that update them about the production
stages that were agreed to in the contract or agreement you signed before
beginning work. E-mails and phone calls are appropriate for these informal
updates, in which you remind your clients of upcoming decisions and/or approvals
they will have to make and set up appointments or meetings for that purpose.
Remember to be complete and correct when sending these informal e-mails. Use spell-check and grammar-check to ensure that your messages reflect your thorough attention to detail and high standards. Every day, clients voice their dissatisfaction about poorly written e-mails, noting that they don’t respect a careless writer and don’t trust him to pay attention to other details of the job. See pages 28 and 200 for e-mail guidelines. When updating by phone call, write out all the information you want to convey before you make the call. Here too, you want to sound thoroughly professional and in control of your information. See page 198 for telephone guidelines.