As a creative entrepreneur, you know how important client experience is. It’s the core of your business!
When we talk about “client experience,” it might seem like one single thing, but in reality, it’s much more robust than that. Each interaction with a client is different and depends on several factors.
And if you’re flying by the seat of your pants trying to “make your clients happy” but falling short, there may be one big glaring thing missing:
As someone who serves a variety of entrepreneurs in many different capacities, I can tell you firsthand the importance of customizing your Client Experience SOPs to fit the specific needs of each service, offer, or product you provide.
But, building out your client experience and supporting it with SOPs isn’t just about making clients happy – these efforts also help you work better. They make sure everything runs smoothly on your end too.
I understand – the idea of structure might not exactly resonate with your creative spirit.
But before you dismiss it, hear me out.
Contrary to what you might think, having the right structures and supports in place can actually be a game-changer for unleashing the full potential of your creative business, rather than stifling it.
Think of it like a canvas – the better the canvas, the more vibrant and compelling your artwork can be.
In this article, I’m excited to give you an inside look into how I set up my client experience SOPs. Plus, I’ll show you how you can create your own SOPs that align with your unique creative business and the client experience you aspire to provide.
We’ll cover the basics of what SOPs are and why they matter for your client experience. We’ll also talk about the different types of SOPs that every business should have for their clients. And most importantly, I’ll guide you through the steps of building out your own SOPs that fit your business like a glove.
Before we jump into the details, let’s lay down the groundwork by understanding what SOPs are and why they’re an essential part of every business, regardless of your size!
SOPs, or Standard Operating Procedures, are essentially a set of step-by-step instructions that outline how you do things in your business. You can implement SOPs for anything from how you design a client logo to how you handle finances in your business! They’re your behind-the-scenes roadmap, detailing the who, what, when, where, and how of your operations (plus, rhythms can support your SOPs by outlining how frequently these tasks occur).
These established methods and guidelines keep your business running smoothly like a well-oiled machine. Having detailed SOPs specifically for your client experience means you won’t have to start from square one every single time you kick off a project, create a product, or host an event. You can improve your processes gradually, without the pressure to come up with something entirely new every time you bring in a new client!
The beauty of SOPs lies in their consistency and efficiency. By having a standardized way of doing things, you ensure that no matter who’s handling a task, it will be done consistently well. This is especially helpful if you outsource pieces of your projects or if you hire team members who will be responsible for certain roles.
Essentially, SOPs make your work and process more reliable which is the key to any strong client experience – they help you deliver a consistent level of service that your clients can come to trust and appreciate.
While they can feel like a heavier lift upfront, you can think of this as building a solid foundation for the future. In the long run, they will save you lots of time, energy, and effort by removing the guesswork from routine or repeatable tasks. Instead of reinventing the wheel every time, you can follow a proven method, make improvements as you go, and refine your processes over time.
SOPs provide the structure you need to deliver white-glove client experiences while allowing you the flexibility to keep growing and evolving.
The first step to developing your Client Experience SOPs is to understand that each client experience will be different. In order to tailor this journey, you need to get clear on your audience or ICA (ideal client avatar) as well as the different ways you serve each client.
For context, I work with my clients in several different ways and for that reason, I’ve intentionally developed a collection of SOPs for EACH type of client.
On the coaching side of my business, I offer services that align with my ideal client at different stages of their business. On the COO side of my business, I support businesses and entrepreneurs who outsource my done-for-you services to help them with their unique internal operations needs.
Because I know my ideal client inside and out and customize my offer around this persona, I intentionally design a client experience based on what I know will really resonate with them. I can tap into their preferences, what matters to them, the challenges they face, and how they approach things. I then use those clues to help me create an amazing client journey at every step. This not only boosts my impact but also ramps up their results.
They hired me for a reason- they’ve got a specific need they want to address. Whether it’s getting some tasks off their plate or getting expert guidance, these needs tell me a lot about the person, where their business is at, what problems they’re dealing with, and what they’re ready to invest in (your clients are no different!) so I can approach them mindfully and appropriately.
Armed with this info, you can shape a thoughtful client experience that makes your offers feel tailor-made for each client. At the same time, it shows them you care, appreciate, and understand them on a deeper level. It’s like that secret ingredient that transforms your client’s experience from good to fantastic!
Once I’m clear on my ideal client, for each service, I consider not only how I can serve and support that ideal client, but which processes need to be built out, systematized, and customized for each. By breaking down your services into distinct stages and developing tailored SOPs for each, you ensure everything flows from the initial connection to long-term relationship nurturing.
As you get started with your own Client Experience SOPs, take a good look at all of your different offers, even if they seem similar. Then, start spotting the things you do over and over again – the tasks, events, and milestones that keep popping up. These will be your building blocks for each step of your customer journey.
Although each project will have its unique needs, there are 7 key stages you should keep in mind as you sketch out your customer journey and figure out the right SOPs to enhance your clients’ time with you.
Believe it or not, nurturing your client experience starts even before you launch a project or make a sale. And it stretches way beyond the project’s end or the moment someone clicks “checkout”!
Let’s break down the 7 essential stages that should be the backbone of the SOPs you build out to support your client experience.
Long before you land the sale or sign a contract, you need to focus on reaching and connecting with the Ideal Client Avatars (ICAs) for your offers, while also expanding your audience.
With well-defined processes that include information about how and where to market as well as a system to follow up with leads, you’ll be set up for success.
You can put automation to work and employ Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools like Honeybook or Dubsado to streamline your efforts, ensuring no lead slips through the cracks. You’ll know how many leads are in your pipeline, where they’re coming from, if they’re warm or cold, and when you need to follow up so you can keep in touch.
Once you have a steady stream of leads, you’ll need to be able to sift through the noise! Not every lead is right for you, your business, or your services!
Building relationships and assessing if leads are the right fit for your offers are crucial elements of your creative business sales process. Your sales SOPs can guide potential clients through applications, emails, discovery calls, and eventually proposals with contracts and invoices.
Your goal here is to remove as many barriers as possible to the final sale while screening prospective clients! Automation and CRMs (I use Dubsado) can play pivotal roles in coordinating a seamless and personalized experience without the heavy lifting on your end!
Once you’ve converted someone from prospect to client, the real work begins!
Onboarding Client Experience SOPs will help you establish a strong foundation and set you and your client up for success! By sharing necessary information (from both you and the client), setting clear expectations (hello, boundaries), and using tools like templates, automation, and CRM systems, you ensure your client can start on the right foot without the guesswork. Plus, it guarantees you get everything you need to hit the ground running without having to chase down information!
Product-based businesses can keep best onboarding practices in mind too! While you aren’t exactly “onboarding” you can set clear expectations around what happens next such as order confirmations, shipping details, return policies, and even information about how customers can care for or get the most out of their new product!
Overall, you want to leave your clients feeling clear, confident, and celebrated at this stage of the game!
COO Tip: My rule of thumb is: answer the question before they have a chance to ask it! Try to always drip out information one step ahead. This ensures they get the info they need in a timely fashion without feeling confused or overwhelmed about what to do next. It’s all about strong communication. Over time, you’ll be able to field common questions or confusions within your process to update your SOPs and improve them. It’s an ever-evolving process.
Once you’re hired and the work officially begins, SOPs can help you manage expectations, maintain healthy boundaries, and ensure everything is running smoothly and timely so you can avoid scope creep!
The goal at this point of the customer journey is to ensure you’re putting the checks and balances in place to be able to deliver a final product or service that’s in alignment with the client’s goals, meets their unique definition of success, and exceeds expectations at every touchpoint.
If you oversee a product-based business, these SOPS may be internal-facing and influence how you store, assess quality, organize, package, and ship products to customers after purchase.
I encourage you to take the time upfront to tailor your SOPs to each type of project. This will allow you to incorporate review checkpoints at specific project milestones so you can get the necessary feedback and approval.
Be sure to utilize Project Management (PM) systems like ClickUp and CRM systems like Honeybook to ensure communication is clear and consistent, goals are established and met, and expectations are exceeded, so you can successfully bring your clients’ visions to life.
Quick Disclosure: The ClickUp and Honeybook links I shared above are affiliate links, which means when you click the link and make a purchase, it won’t cost you more, but I may receive a commission for sharing this with you. I promise I only ever share what I use and love, so I’d be sharing these with you anyway!
This step is all about getting your project signed, sealed, and delivered!
You want to be able to capture the outcomes of your work together and establish the next steps for the future. Be sure to map out a well-thought-out plan for staying connected after the project.
One of the most important pieces I always make sure to include in Project Closeout SOPs is a system for gathering testimonials from clients.
Whether you’re a product-based or service-based business, you don’t want to miss out on opportunities to get feedback from your clients.
If you sell products, this might look like collecting customer reviews to understand how people are responding to the product. If you sell services, it might mean gathering testimonials through a survey or discussing the results achieved together.
In both cases, it’s about not only wrapping things up smoothly but also laying the groundwork for future work together. Often this can spark new ideas for ways you can serve your audience further!
To make sure you capitalize on these opportunities, you may choose to include and automate these things in your Project Closeout SOPs:
COO Tip: Don’t just wait until the project’s over to ask for testimonials! Often, the best client feedback will come from asking them to share their experiences in real-time such as right after a successful launch, after they swoon over the first deliverable of your project, or after you help them through a challenging situation!
Handing over the deliverable, wiping your hands clean, and calling it a day isn’t the way to exceed client expectations. Instead, you want the close of any project to showcase your dedication to your work and your clients. This is your opportunity to tie everything off neatly with a bow in a way that leaves everyone feeling resolved and confident moving forward.
In addition, your goal should always be to nurture the relationships you’ve fostered well beyond your time together to ensure your clients come back for support if and when they need it.
In my work as a business coach and COO, I want my clients to know I am always here cheering them on and genuinely celebrating them, whether we’re directly working together or not!
Your SOPs guide their post-project journey.
You can do this by …
It’s all part of showing your commitment to the full journey and leaving no loose ends whether you’re dealing with products or services.
The project may be done, but don’t put that client out of your mind so quickly! Nurturing relationships beyond your time together should become a staple of your approach. Your SOPs should include time and event-based outreach through CRM tools, to keep the conversation going!
For example, you might create a system to keep up with past clients. See what’s going on in their business by scheduling time on your calendar for regular social media engagement. Or, create an automated check-in email that is triggered to go out to clients 6 months after a project closes to see how things are going.
Who knows, these touch points may lead to another project together or a referral! The key is to stay top of mind, even after the work is done while nurturing the relationships you’ve already established.
Tending to these 7 stages in the SOPs I create for my business, not only captures but lays out an intentional client journey. This way, I always know what stage my clients are in and can tailor the client experience to meet them where they are and enhance our relationship and the experience of working together.
COO Tip: I actually created a Client Experience Map to help me track my clients’ progress. You can make one too using a basic spreadsheet. It’s like a visual tracker where you can easily move clients through each stage, giving you a quick and clear overview of the entire journey for all of your clients and projects!
While your SOPs provide structure and guidance, the ability to surprise and delight your clients is the icing on the cake! Small but meaningful gestures can make all the difference!
Your “Surprise and Delight SOPs” can become your signature above-and-beyond touches that you put in place to elevate your client experience.
This helps take the client experience to the next level!
In my business, I love celebrating my clients, and I’m a big gift-giver (within reason). I believe that a little gesture (like a surprise coffee treat, a book they’d love, a card, an unprompted Voxer message or text) to show you care and are thinking of someone can go a long way in building a solid relationship.
Here are some ideas you may consider weaving into your client experience to really make the client experience more memorable and personal!
If you’d like support mapping out your own customer journey, crafting an exceptional client experience, and building out the SOPs to support your clients every step of the way, I’d be thrilled to help!
Click here to reach out and learn more about my 90-minute Clarity Calls.
Together, we’ll get clear on your vision and put an actionable plan in place to help you customize your client experience to fit the unique offers in your creative business and the one-of-a-kind customers you serve.