Ok, these are actually two separate “secrets.” Think of the extra as a bonus. As you’ll see, however, these are related and flow from the universal truth that pretty much every client likes to think and feel that he/she/it is the only client in your professional life and the only one you care about.
The first is: Be Responsive. Whether you communicate with your clients by telephone, email or even text messages, immediacy or ASAP is the name of the game. Obviously, if you can take a phone call (without violating the second “secret” of this post below) that is best. If you can’t or your client initiates contact by email, I like to follow the rule of responding within 2 hours. If it is not possible to respond substantively within 2 hours (very often the case), I like the approach of responding with an email that (1) acknowledges receipt of the client’s communication; and (2) promises to get the answer and/or provide a substantive response within 24 hours. The important corollary to this policy is not to forget to follow-up with the substantive response within a day. If you can make this a pattern, and follow it, it helps to lead clients blissfully believe they are you only–or at least most important–client.
Second: Be Present. For some reason, I find it easy to shut off the world around me when I am with my 4-year-old daughter. I like to think I’m completely present with her. This helps me feel like, even though I work a lot and can’t spend as much time with her as I’d like, at least the time we spend together is high quality time.
I try to apply this same principle to time spent with clients, albeit for different reasons. It’s not that my clients are adorable now and will some day grow up and become, if not less adorable, at least less available. Instead, I try to put myself in my client’s shoes. Anyone who pays a few hundred dollars an hour for my time deserves my complete attention. That’s what I would expect, and that’s what my client should expect. This means in most instances I do not, when with a client, answer my phone, check the stock market, read and respond to email concerning other matters, or use my iPhone to check the paltry stats on my blog. In fact, I’m not adverse to leaving my phone in the car or turning off the ringer when I know my undivided attention will be appreciated. The only exception is when I’m with a client and there’s down time and the client starts checking his or her own email.
I’ll admit it’s challenging to apply both of these habits. In other words, it can be hard to quickly respond to calls, emails or text messages when I’ve elected to shut off or ignore my phone to be present with a client. But it’s important, and if practiced with care, is bound to engender client trust.