by Bryant Gillespie
Note: We’ve got long one for you today. This post clocks in at around 3,000 words – it will take you about 15min to read.
Star this one and save it for when you have some time to sit down and really focus on putting it to use.
You know that you need to follow-up on your quotes – that is easy to remember.
And you have a lot of motivation to do so. You gotta eat right?
Today’s secret may not be very sexy – but it’s very effective.
What’s the secret? You need to follow-up after every order.
If your shop is as busy as mine was, then you’ve got a hundred other things to worry about than work that’s already gone out the door.
Why take the time right?
This is an important strategy to implement – I cannot stress this enough.
Whether your a one man operation or have a team of 20+, make this part of your weekly routine.
If you’re an owner with employees, you can’t always inspect every job that goes out the door. I’m not saying you shouldn’t trust your employees to produce good work, but mistakes do happen.
We all hate fielding calls from dissatisfied clients. There’s no quicker way to ruin your day than to have some lady screaming in your ear because you used the wrong font on 20 t-shirts for a cheerleader camp.
However, the truth is you’ll never hear from 90% of dissatisfied clients.
They’ll just stop doing business with you. And it can take months before you even realize it.
Take the time upfront now, because fixing a relationship six months from now is a lot more expensive.
The benefits of improving your follow-up
1) You get a chance to fix any problem before it turns ugly and you lose a client.
2) You to get important feedback on how you can improve.
3) You can generate referrals and testimonials
The best ways to follow up
1) Visit your clients in person
This is the gold standard. When possible follow up with your clients in person.
Bring them doughnuts, cookies, lunch, coffee, whatever they like.
There is no faster way than to secure your position as their “guy” than show up with gifts and make friends with your clients.
This is both time consuming and expensive – which is why it works so well.
You will know when a job warrants an in-person followup based on your client’s value. When in doubt, if it’s a key client take the time to follow up in person.
I assume that most of you own smaller shops. You are involved in the day-to-day production as well as any and all business responsibilities.
The great majority of the time following up on a completed job in person is just not feasible. This brings us to the next method of followup.
2) Call your clients – preferred method
I recommend calling for two reasons:
1) Most clients are happy to hear from you. It shows you care when you take the take to call – a lot of businesses don’t even bother to pick up the phone any more.
2) It is tough to get a sense of emotion through email. It’s also a lot harder to be rude on the phone. I have had situations in the past that have turn rather nasty quickly through email due to misinterpretation. These same people were very pleasant and agreeable on the phone.
When to Call:
Call several days (2-5 days) after an order has been completed (picked up, delivered, installed). This gives them time to evaluate the job.
Do not do this on Monday morning.
Pick one day of the week and schedule 1-2 hours to call clients whose jobs were completed the previous week.
Don’t rush this. Really focus and take a few minutes talking to each client – this really pays dividends.
I did this in the afternoons because I’m most productive in the mornings after a few cups of coffee. I usually hit a slump in the afternoons and talking to clients recharges my batteries a bit.
It’s important to figure out a schedule that works for you and stick to it. It goes without saying – but adjust the time you call if you know a client is busy during a certain time.
On The Actual Call
This is the easiest part.
It’s simple – call them up, introduce yourself, and then tell them you’re calling to get feedback on the job and make sure they 100% satisfied with the job.
Something to the effect of:
“This is Bryant with XYZ. I’m calling to follow up with you on the ____ we completed last week. Just wanted to make sure you were happy with the job. Are you satisfied with everything? Anything that didn’t turn out the way you wanted?"
There are two possible outcomes. Let’s talk about how to deal with each.
Ruh Roh – your client is NOT happy
If they’re not happy, you will know it.
Here’s what worked for me –
When I proactively called people to get their feedback and they were unhappy, I found they were way more reasonable and rational than if they were to call me first.
When dealing with unsatisfied or upset clients, follow this outline.
1) Acknowledge their concern
You don’t have to tell them they’re right, but you do need to let them know you “understand where they are coming from”
2) Get their side of the story
Ask them to clarify what happened so you can figure out where things went wrong
3) Offer a solution
This is the trickiest part.
When I first started, the thought of losing a client terrified me. I would cave like a little girl and offer a huge discount or refund on the job to a complaining client.
Do not give a refund or discount unless that is the only way to fix the situation. Some particularly nasty clients will complain about every job just to get a discount.
It’s important to start small here and work your way up to a solution that doesn’t leave you without tomorrow’s lunch money.
Follow a progression similar to below –
(Caution: use your own judgement here – based on the value of the job, deadlines involved, how big the error is)
If you’re at fault (which is almost always in the clients eyes)
1) Offer to fix the mistake by reprinting the job or fixing the error.
2) If they balk at the above solution, put the burden on your client –
Look, I apologize for the mistake and really want to keep your business. What would you like me to do to make it right?”
I’ve gotten all sorts of answers to this from “I’d like to whole job for free” to “I just wanted to let you know how dissatisfied we were.”
Angry clients aren’t used to fielding this question.
You’ll put them off-guard a bit, which can allow you both to come to reasonable solution.
If your client is at fault (they approved a proof that had an error or a similar situation)
1) Stand your ground. Be firm, but not rude.
Refer to the proof that you provided of the job. Let them know you try to catch any errors before the job is completed, but ultimately they signed off on the proof and are responsible.
Depending on the client, they may –
- Own their mistake and want to reprint the job at full price
- Pay and take the job as-is
- Wash their hands of the entire transaction.
None of these outcomes were ideal for me. If at all possible, I like for a client to leave happy about every order.
2) In this situation, if the job cost us less than $150 to fix, I would reprint it for free.
If it cost us over $150 to fix, I would offer to reprint it at half price. To us a happy client was worth the extra trouble and expense.
Some of our most fiercely loyal clients came from jobs that went wrong and we bent over backwards to fix.
You don’t have to kill yourself for each client. And if this situation comes up more than a few times year – you need do a better job of preventing the mistake.
YESSS! Your client is VERY happy
If they’re happy, great news.
Be sure to thank them and let them know you appreciate their business.
While you’ve got them on the phone, take the time to learn some more about them. It pays off to be curious.
Ask them about their business and what problems they’re having.
People love to talk about their businesses. You may discover another need that you can help them with.
Some questions you might ask:
- What problems are you having with your business?
- How are you promoting your business now?
- What have you tried in the past?
- What are you doing to stay ahead of your competitors?
- What projects do you have coming up?
When you get people talking about their business, you’ll start to see opportunities to share your expertise.
Educate your client on what you sell
A client may not know all the products and services you offer. You really have to spell it out for them.
Despite having it clearly listed on your website, your business card, or the brochure you gave him last week, clients still need to hear “Yes, we can do that.”
It’s your job to let a client know how you can help. We offered a ton of products in house, so this would happen to us a lot.
We’d sell a sign panel for a plumber’s building, but he wouldn’t realize we could print t-shirts for his employees.
I might say:
I noticed you didn’t have any lettering on your trucks. Is there a reason you guys don’t have them lettered? We did some graphics for Company XYZ last week and when I followed up a week later, John told me they already got three jobs from a clients that saw the truck.
Asking for a referral on the phone
If you’ve never done it before, asking for a referral on the phone will feel completely foreign to you.
The first few times, I promise you will feel like an idiot for asking. Push through this and you will be rewarded.
If you’ve satisfied your client, most will have no problems giving you a referral. The best time to ask is right after they’ve had a good experience with your shop.
The important thing is you actually come out and ask.
A Sample Script to Use
Don’t use this word for word. Change the language to something you feel more comfortable with. If you need, practice by yourself until it sounds less like a telemarketing script and more natural.
John, I'm really glad you like the sign. Just wanted to let you know that its great to work with clients like you.
We get most of our business through referrals, and we like to ask our clients to introduce to others like themselves. We take good care of all referrals and give them 20% off their first order.
Who are one or two people you think we should reach out to?
(Ask the question and be silent)
If they decline to give you a referral, thank them anyways. Do not be afraid to ask them after the next job.
If they do give you a referral, be sure to thank them and follow up on the lead. Handwritten thank you cards are a great way to do this.
3) How to follow up with email
If you absolutely cannot dedicate the time to call or need to cover a ton of ground in a short time, your next option is email.
Email can be very effective and is a good way to practice asking for referrals.
Email is also great for extremely busy clients who may not have time to chat.
Step 1. Getting Feedback
Here is a sample email I’ve used in the past to get feedback from clients. Short and sweet emails seem to get the best response.
Hi John, Just wanted to follow up and make sure you were 110% satisfied with the signs.
Were you satisfied with everything?
Would love to hear your feedback - even if it's just one line. Thanks,
If they respond, typically you’ll get something back like “The signs were great. Thanks again.”
If I get a positive response from the email, I like to send back another email asking for one of two things
- a referral
- a testimonial
If they respond with negative comments about the job or express dissatisfaction – call them on the phone ASAP.
It’s very difficult to resolve issues like this through email. You could wind up trading emails back and forth for days.
Do yourself a favor – suck it up and call them.
Step 2a. Asking for a Referral
Depending on what you sell you may offer a free product or discount for the referral.
People give referrals when it’s in their best interest to. Always give the client a reason to give you a referral.
If you’re looking for a specific referral to a company or person be sure to include that in the email.
Be sure to change the wording to match your business and personal style.
John - really glad you like the signs.
Enjoyed working on this project with you.
As you may know, we’re a small shop we get do get most of our business through referrals.
Referrals allow us to work really hard to deliver 110% to our clients. Since your happy with the job, I'd like to ask you to introduce us to others like yourself.
Who are one or two people you think we could help? We primarily serve small businesses - so it could be a friend who runs a business, one of your vendors.
We take special care of all referrals. We give you 20% of your next order. We also give them 20% of their first order I appreciate your help.
Step 2b. Asking for a Testimonial
If I need a testimonial, I’d usually reply with something like below.
95% of the time I write the testimonial myself for several reasons:
- this saves them time
- they always have the ability to change the wording if they want
- it allows me to really gear a testimonial towards a particular industry or product
John - really glad you like signs. We really enjoyed working on this project with you.
Would you willing to let us feature your signs in our portfolio with a testimonial from you? We’d be happy to promote your business and provide a link back to your website.
Would the testimonial below be alright to use?
Testimonial:"When I needed signs, the guys at SignShop had my back. I told them what I needed and they had a proof back to me within 24 hours. I loved the design they created. I received the signs within a week and was impressed with the quality of the printing. I'd definitely recommend SignShop for anything sign related."
Step 3. Thank Them
If a client says no to giving a referral or testimonial – thank them anyway and move on.
If a client does give you a referral or testimonial, it very important to thank them.
How you should thank them depends on how well you know them and your budget. I’ve sent thank you emails, called and thanked them, sent thank you cards, cookies, books I think the client would enjoy.
As a general rule, the more personable and valuable to them, the more well received the gift will be.
In the case of referrals, make sure you follow up on those leads.
The Importance of Asking for Referrals and Testimonials
If you’ve done your job right and made them happy, clients are happy to provide referrals and testimonials.
A lot of us inherently avoid selling ourselves – fearing we’ll come off like a sleazy used car salesman.
I used to think this way myself. It took me a while to develop the courage to flat out ask for referrals through email and phone.
It’s important that you develop the confidence to ask for them because they really are one of the most cost-effective way to grow your business.
A referral gives you instant credibility that you just can’t buy with a brochure or website. Referrals take shorter time to sell and are half as likely to try to haggle with you on price.
Think of testimonials as Amazon reviews for your business.
Picture the last time you bought something on Amazon. You searched for a product. There were 3 or 4 options that are very similar. You read a couple reviews for each product. And then you purchase the one with the most 4 and 5 stars reviews.
This can work the same way for your shop.
If a client visits your website and sees a lot of glowing testimonials, it makes the sale that much easier.
- Its always cheaper to keep a current client than to have to find a new one
- Follow-up on completed jobs on a weekly basis: in person, by phone, or through email
- Do not be afraid to ask for referrals and testimonials
Right now – look at your calendar and schedule 30 min of your time to implement this strategy.
Call or email 5 clients about the last order you completed for them. Ask for their honest feedback.
If they were happy with the job, ask them for a referral or a testimonial.