Running a business is more than producing a product or service. The heart of every business is how you, the owner, deals with clients on a daily basis. It’s all about fostering credibility and proving to potential clients you’re trustworthy enough to earn their hard-earned dollars.
What does it take to keep your clients coming back for more? Integrity. Without integrity, no one will ever believe a word you say no matter how pretty you make the packaging.
What is integrity? Wikipedia defines integrity as:
Integrity is a concept of consistency of actions, values, methods, measures, principles, expectations, and outcomes. In ethics, integrity is regarded as the honesty and truthfulness or accuracy of one’s actions. Integrity can be regarded as the opposite of hypocrisy, in that it regards internal consistency as a virtue, and suggests that parties holding apparently conflicting values should account for the discrepancy or alter their beliefs.
Let’s take a closer look at some of these aspects.
- Honesty. There’s a lot of snake-oil salesmen out there on the web. When you’re not dealing with an actual brick and mortar business, it’s very difficult to know who you’re going into business with. Not everyone has your best interests in mind. All they want is your money and once they have that, they’re gone. But honesty is more than an exchange of currency. Honesty is being able to tell your clients that maybe you’re not a good fit for them, or telling them that the direction they’re going in may not be the best. As a business owner you have to know when to do the right thing, even when it may cost you the sale. The kind of honesty where you can tell your client the good and the bad will keep them coming back because they know they can trust what you say and you’re not just yessing them to death to keep their business.
- Consistency. Reliability is key. When you say you’ll deliver a product or service in a specified period of time, do it. Clients don’t want to hear about the latest drama that caused a delay. They hired you to do a job and no matter how nice they are about it, they need you to complete that project on time. If an emergency does come up, be honest about it. Don’t use it as an excuse to buy yourself more time. You may be able to get away with that once, but make a habit of it and your clients will drop you like a hot stone and find someone else. This takes us to our next point…
- Accountability. Great plans never survive the first line of contact. Things go wrong and sometimes the circumstances are beyond our control. Other times, we make mistakes. We’re only human, after all. When this happens, own it. Take responsibility for the gaff and figure out a solution. Blaming others, your equipment or programs isn’t going to help.
- Fairness. Treat all your clients with the utmost respect and courtesy, even when they have you tearing out your hair. If you’re offering a service, remember you’re being hired to do something your client doesn’t know how to do for herself and probably doesn’t understand the process either. She’s either a little scared or uncertain, especially if this is a first time business and she’s stepping way outside her comfort zone. Don’t judge. Talk to the client and get to the root of the frustration, you’ll both be much happier for it.
- Reliability. The moment you sign on a new client, you are giving them your commitment that you’ll be there to finish the job. Horror stories and tales of woe abound on the internet with clients whose service provider has pulled a bait and switch and gone POOF. You’re a magician of a higher caliber, you make magic happen. See the act all the way through, deliver and your audience will definitely come back for more.
- Kindness. You can have all the knowledge and skills in the world, but that doesn’t mean people care one whit about what you do. People care when they know you care too. A little compassion and understanding can go a long, long way in earning respect from your clients.
Humans are emotional creatures. We all want to feel we belong and that we’re cared about. When you have integrity, it shows in the way you deal with your clients, vendors, outsourcers and employees. Caring is not a weakness. Showing a little integrity makes people feel good about working with you, it makes the project a pleasure.
Think about all the people you’ve worked with. Who did you like working with the most and why? What made that experience so special you had to tell everyone about it? I bet it all comes down to how you were treated more than the end result of the product itself.
What was the best experience you had working on a project? Tell us in the comments, we’d like to hear about it!