Business basics for private counselors

We’ve all had frustrating customer service experiences, the kind that make it clear that sentiments like “Your call is very important to us,” “We apologize for any inconvenience,” and “Our goal is to serve you better” are just worn out words, not sincere expressions of concern. If you’re an independent counselor running a small business, chances are that you genuinely care about your customers and want to do great work for them. There’s a lot to running a good business and to being a good counselor, but you can undo a lot of that hard work by just missing the basics.

1. Keep your promises.
Yes, you’ve got to deliver on what you promised when they hired you, but you’ve also got to call back when you say you’re going to, forward the information you said you’d forward, and cover the agenda items you said you’d cover in the meeting. Breaking little promises like these makes customers worry that you’ll break one of the all-important bigger ones. Keep the promises you make. And if you can’t, make more realistic promises.

2. Show them you care.
Families are entrusting you with their student’s education. That means they’ll need to feel like more than just a customer. Remember that parent’s name that you haven’t seen since the first meeting. Take a minute to check in and find out how things are going before you dive into the work. Send along a note of support or encouragement when you hear the family’s dealing with a difficult situation. I’m not saying you need to invite your customers to your Thanksgiving dinner. But counseling is a personal business. And treating them like more than just a transaction will show them that you appreciate more than just their business.

3. Make things right when things go wrong.
Every business occasionally has to deal with unhappy customers. Sometimes those complaints aren’t reasonable. Sometimes they even blame you for things that aren’t your fault. This can be especially true in our business where the customers are parents, the product is their child, and the service revolves around college admissions, which can be a very stressful time for families. When handled correctly, you can not only turn an unhappy customer around, but often even turn them into one of your fans. Here’s a past post with some specific tips for handling customer complaints.

Yes, you’ll need to do more than the basics to run a great business. But basics are the best building blocks.