Making clients feel confident

Arising from discussion and comment on last month’s piece concerning ‘professional service’ is the issue of client confidence. We have all had the experience of being a client to someone else and know what it is like when we are made to feel confident in their ability to provide the service for which they are being engaged.

Equally we will, most likely, have had the experience of being made to feel anxious in our dealings with service-providers even though we think that we will probably receive the level of service we are expecting. The problem here is that when we are feeling anxious in a relationship we are vulnerable to the approaches of others who, with their crafty knack of sensing such disquiet, are able to subtly woo and lure us into their world.

Since the last article appeared I have moved house. This is a fairly normal part of life and what, you may understandably ask, has that to do with making clients feel confident? I engaged a removal company to provide a service that, albeit fairly straightforward, is one which can occupy a significant sum of those sleepless hours in the early morning when anxiety lets loose its gremlins of gnawing angst to wreak their havoc. Indeed, to anyone who is even remotely obsessive about their accumulated artefacts, feeling confident in someone else’s hands (quite literally) is paramount.

The removers were personable and positive and gave the impression that they were putting their client first, not least with their extremely prompt responses to my not inconsiderable number of questions about whether they had factored in enough room for my large terracotta urn with the Japanese acer, that oak table left to me by an aunt which doesn’t fit anywhere but can never be sold and my outstanding fine wine collection (for the purposes of this article, some facts may have been exaggerated a touch).

But, and this mattered to me, every time I ended a call, I felt reassured for only a minute or two before the nagging doubt returned and I began to question my choice of remover again.

I completely accept that we all have differing levels of concern about these kind of things but clients need to hear the truth, not what a service-provider thinks they want to hear. In my case, I needed to hear that they had experience of moving fine wine cellars and maybe even how they would go about the job to reassure me. It would even have been fine if they had told me they’d never seen such a magnificent collection, let alone moved one – I’d have been able to work with that. What I didn’t need was endless general reassurances along the lines of ‘it’ll be fine’ which sounded as if they were being recited and had been done so to numerous other clients that same day.

Clients need know that they are in safe hands and the way to do that is to listen very carefully to what they say, how they say it and to what they don’t say and fashion responses and reassurances accordingly. Does the client appear to be fussing over every tiny detail or are they quite happy to sit back and let you just carry on? Are there particular aspects that they seem to come back to? Are you keeping them informed in a manner that they need?

These things matter greatly in client relations. If they are not attended to the circling competition, eager to swoop at any moment, will make their move and appear more attractive.

In the event, I stayed with the company and everything went according to plan – they were efficient, prompt and polite – but the big question is, and this is key to business development, would I unequivocally recommend them or use them again? In the provision of a professional service, the Holy Grail is ‘repeat and refer’ and making your clients feel confident is the ultimate quest.

In case you’re wondering, my response to that is ‘maybe’ and maybe is the bedfellow of no, and you don’t want to be under the covers with either.

Luan de Burgh of the de Burgh Group is a professional public speaker and presentation coach. More of his articles can be read here