As developers and designers, we can get pretty focused on the project work and forget about building client relationships and ensuring that they have a good client experience. Laura Elizabeth is an expert in this field, who after observing the client communication processes within her own business, developed a portal called Client Portal, which connects with WordPress and enables you to easily communicate every step of the design process with your clients.
In this podcast, Cath talks to Laura about the importance of client communication and she gives some great tips on how to do this. They also talk about Laura’s other project, Design Academy which is a course that helps developers conquer their fear of design.
There are some great tips in here, plus Laura Elizabeth has a special 20% discount offer for WPE Podcast listeners on Client Portal (see the Show Notes links below for details)
Laura has been a designer for the last 7 years. She started out with one year in an agency then became a freelancer. Last year she transitioned into product development of a WordPress plugin called Client Portal. She also teaches how to design in a non-pretentious way and she still does the odd design job from time to time when a cool project comes along.
Laura came to realise that most of her income was coming from repeat work and referrals. This is because of the importance that she puts on giving her clients a memorable experience. She came from an agency background and when she became a freelancer, she felt that disadvantage of not having a nice office to bring your clients to, so she focused on standing out and giving them a great experience instead.
Laura says that most clients have a business goal that they want to achieve but they want to enjoy the process as well. As a designer, a lot of what you do is really fun and it’s exciting for them to see their business take on this whole new look.
Laura’s favourite way to do this is to make the process repeatable and smooth. Some designers make the mistake of assuming that the client knows how a project works and what is involved. However, clients are generally nervous to work with you because they are investing a lot of money and not sure what to expect. You need to gain their trust with quality communication.
Don’t assume that if the client isn’t bugging you that they don’t want to know. Assume that the client is waiting to know what is happening all the time.
Many designers and developers complain that their client is bugging them with constant questions, but this just means that they are feeling insecure about the project. If you communicate with them frequently, it helps to alleviate this worry. Laura used to tell her client’s that every Monday morning they will receive an email outlining everything that she did in the week prior, what she will be doing the following week and what she needs from them. She says, to just keep it simple and create a template with bullet points.
Laura made the client portal for her own business to be able to manage her clients and she didn’t intend on selling it at first. She only started selling it when she realised that there was a demand in the market for such a product.
It had got to a point where she was finding it difficult to manage all of her clients and she didn’t like the idea of giving design work over to a freelancer. Instead, she went through her client process and noted down every single detail from every email, deliverable and interaction. She realised that it was all the same for every client, apart from the design.
From there she made a portal where the client logs in and comes to a dashboard where they see every deliverable that is in progress, completed, coming up. It shows when their next phone call is and when she is available.
Laura had designed the website and got developers to code it so she took bits of her website to hack together for a dashboard. She then put it up for sale and offered a presale discount so that she could use those funds to develop the product. She then hired a developer to do the plugin once she had the revenue. So clever!
It’s the job of a designer and developer to put yourself in your client’s shoes.
Sometimes we can get too focussed on the design rather than the client experience. It just requires a small mindset shift.
At the same time, you also need to educate the client that the website isn’t actually for them, it is for their customers. Laura says that sometimes a client may come to her for a redesign when their current look isn’t working, but she will explain to them that the problem may not be the actual website. It can be lack of targeting or marketing as well. So she would sometimes have to tell her clients to make some changes and them come back to her with revenue rather than use their savings.
She was working with a lot of developers who all had really cool side projects and needed designers to help them. So, she created a free resource which helps developers learn how to design without having to pay a designer. That means that they can then get their side projects up and running and once they have revenue, they can pay a designer from that. Her plan is to turn this into a course early next year.
Tune in at the 27-minute mark to learn more about what is involved in the course.
Her focus is Client Portal at the moment with a new version being released early next year. Then next year she will go almost full-time with Design Academy and get a solid course going.
Wow, such a good reminder! Get communicating everyone!
If you have any tips or hints on what has worked well for you to create a good customer experience, we would love to hear about it in the comment section below. Go elevate!