Consulting is one of the most approachable business models out there, especially for seasoned professionals who have spent most of their careers immersed in one industry. Getting to share your knowledge and experience with up-and-comers (and get paid for the effort) is an ideal way to make use of your skills, and establish a line of income with the potential to grow.
There are countless examples of entrepreneurs who got their start in consulting and ended up with multi-million-dollar enterprises, but expertise alone isn’t enough to make this dream a reality.
The Customer Experience Factor
It’s obviously important that you have enough experience to provide valuable insights to your customers, the ability to earn and prove the results of your efforts, and the business acumen to attract new sales. However, retaining your customers by providing an optimal customer experience is just as vital if you want to thrive.
- Retention is more important than acquisition. Most of your customers will be paying you a retainer, or at least paying you regularly in some capacity. It’s, therefore, more cost efficient to keep the customers you have than it is to chase down new ones, making customer retention better and cheaper than acquisition. Positive customer experiences are the easiest way to improve your retention.
- Reputation is everything. As a consultant, your reputation is going to be the life or death of your business. The reviews and testimonials people leave you, as well as what your customers say to other prospective customers, can make a world of difference in your new sales rates. High-quality customer experiences, even with a small client base, will almost guarantee the preservation or growth of your reputation.
- Experience can trump results. Not everything you do as a consultant will yield fantastic results, but a good overall experience can help make up for your mistakes or weak points. Conversely, a bad customer experience can ruin even a stellar performance—so make sure you prioritize the experience factor.
How to Give a Better Experience
We’ve established that providing an ideal customer experience is essential to building a successful consulting business, but how can you go about this?
- Personalize the experience. Clients want to feel like they’re seen as individuals, and the best way to accomplish that is to personalize the experience. Be friendly, chit chat, and get to know your clients on a personal level. Then, make sure you adapt your approach for their unique needs and listen to what they have to say. It may sound simple, but it makes an incredible difference.
- Make the experience memorable. You also want to make the experience of working with you memorable somehow. Show off your personality, make jokes, and go above and beyond the call of duty to make a good impression. You can also offer unique gifts or rewards as a surprise to make the experience unforgettable.
- Differentiate yourself from the competition. There are lots of consultants out there, so you’ll need a way to make yourself stand out from the crowd. You can do this by showcasing your unique brand qualities, throwing in extra services, or simply by communicating more.
- Show your clients you care about them. Let your customers know how important they—and their business—are to you. Send a thank-you note to acknowledge their new purchases, or reach out to say hello on a regular basis. Simple gestures can go a long way.
- Follow up proactively. Don’t wait for the customer to contact you—be the one to make the first contact. If something goes wrong, let them know immediately. If you haven’t heard from them in a while, reach out. Proactive communication shows that you care what’s going on and keeps you top-of-mind, both of which lend themselves to more positive customer experiences.
- Ask for feedback. This is crucial. Ask your clients for feedback regularly about your performance. Figure out where your weak points are and work to improve them; not only will this demonstrate your willingness to adapt and improve to your current customers, it will make your service even better for your future customers.
Customer service is a skill like any other, and it’s one you’ll need to develop if you want to be successful as a consultant. If you don’t have any experience in this area, consider working with someone who does; you may be able to find a mentor, a partner, or even a skilled team leader to join your business.
If you already have a consulting business and this is a weak area for you, consider investing in its development. By investing in customer service, you’ll multiply your results almost immediately and create a foundation for years to come.