Every business entity depends on clients to keep the cogs turning. Cordial client relations are the bedrock on which successful businesses run. In a crowded marketplace with identical products and services, steps taken toward good client relationships set a company apart.
Strong client relationship skills help in the longevity of the business. Their ultimate reward is client referrals.
So what are the traits of a robust client relationship? Simply, all the traits that define any good association - are good communication, empathy, dependability, honesty, and accountability, among others.
In the post, you will see the many hand-picked ways your business can incorporate all these beneficial traits for achieving the best possible outcome for you and the client.
Read on to learn more about the actionable methods for improving client satisfaction and building healthy partnerships.
1. Gather Information
The foundation of a healthy client relationship is laid even before you close the deal. Information is vital to aid you in coming up with a winning proposal.
To establish a meaningful connection with your potential client, the pitch you make must relate to the client’s goals and be in sync with the team’s personalities and values that you will be working with. This would mean collecting tangible information like:
➔ Products and services on offer.
➔ The client’s target audience and who the end-users of their product or service are.
➔ The competition.
➔ Overall business goals according to their priority and challenges faced.
➔ Strategies they follow that have yielded results in the past.
And also intangible information such as:
➔ Their definition of success.
➔ Any future expansion or diversification plans that they may have - such as scaling up, new product launches, etc.
➔ Details about the client’s belief systems, values and what distinguishes them from the competition.
➔ Any hobbies and preferences of the individuals you’ll need to interact with.
2. Have an Onboarding Process
A streamlined onboarding process is an effective customer retention strategy. It sets the stage for clear communication that goes a long way in maintaining a long-lasting relationship with the client.
During this process, you could:
➔ Mail them a welcome kit that includes some company-branded merchandise, a greeting card, and some additional goodies based on the more personal information you have researched.
➔ Make sure all the stakeholders have the required access to all the tools, accounts, and dashboards.
➔ Having a kickoff meeting will ensure that all the ducks are in a row. Doing so is a great way to get to know your client and gain an inkling of the culture at their offices. It will also ensure everything is in order before embarking on the relationship and encourage a degree of familiarity by putting a face to the name.
3. Focus on Stellar Communication
The focus on communication has a significant role in fostering strong relationships with clients. While emails are good for formal communication, instant messaging for work brings on a touch of the human factor and informality that helps build a good rapport with the client. Most of all, stay humble in all client interactions.
Also, take note to speak your client’s language, which means understanding how they convey their ideas, the idioms, and metaphors they use, etc.
A few points to note while interacting with the client:
➔ Use a mix of email and instant messaging. Instant messaging is suitable for matters of priority and email for routine issues. Doing so cuts back on back-and-forth emails while also being available at short notice if required.
➔ Create concise emails that have a clear purpose and avoid redundant information. Make sure that the vital information is placed at the top and highlighted.
➔ Be sure to edit your emails for grammar or spelling errors, as simple mistakes may have your client questioning your attention to detail and professionalism.
➔ After any conversation with a client, it’s a good idea to have a recap via email to make sure there is no room for miscommunication, and both sides have clarity on the matter discussed.
4. Go the Extra Mile
Your proposal to the client will exhibit the steps you are taking to achieve the client’s goals from the project’s standpoint. Making the extra effort to understand your client’s goals along with their pain points will provide an opportunity to reinforce that you are willing to go the extra mile to understand your client. This is a significant move from a relationship standpoint.
To help you in doing this, approach it in terms of “what”, “why”, and “so that.”
➔ The “what” refers to the steps you’ll take from a process standpoint.
➔ The “why” links the process to the business’s specific goals.
➔ The “so that” addresses any pain points for the business’s team members.
For example: Ramping up the advertising budget for the second half of the month to drive more leads will help your sales team so that it isn’t scrounging around for them towards the end of the month while trying to beat the clock.
This small yet significant step will propel the relationship and signal that you’re not treating them as another account to close but that you genuinely care about their needs.
5. Set and Deliver Realistic Expectations
Needless to say, be sure to deliver on any promise to your client. Be sure to do what you say you will - and even work towards exceeding the client’s expectations with lucid communication, along with the best possible results you can muster.
➔ Be sure to set and deliver expectations that are realistic in front of your client from the start. This involves recognizing your limitations and capabilities and setting practical timelines for any project.
➔ You should know your deliverables and how you plan to deliver them. Appraising your client regularly on the project status is part of the delivery process.
➔ The key ingredient to delivering and exceeding expectations—your attitude! Never underestimate the confidence that a calm, cool, collected, and positive attitude instills in your client.
6. Embrace Accountability
A good relationship always requires one to maintain two-way accountability between the partners, requiring to keep each other on their toes. When you set clear boundaries, it encourages a mutually beneficial relationship. It is perfectly acceptable and crucial to have the following expectations from your client.
➔ What deadlines do they need to conform to?
➔ What are the preferred ways of communication, and when is it okay to contact you? Would non-working hours be off-limits?
➔ Your expectations from the client should be inked from the commencement of the relationship and reaffirmed on a regular basis.
➔ Be sure to set timelines and realistic workloads that you both feel are manageable.
➔ If your client doesn’t hold up their end of the bargain, do not hesitate to advocate for yourself and your team. This can be done in a way that is constructive and respectful, and a polite yet clear email explaining yourself is an ideal approach.
Approaching your client for accountability from their side could be daunting. But doing so will ensure respect from them, particularly as you are approaching the relationship on equal terms and no one has to play second fiddle. This approach will leave little room for misunderstandings or any potential blame game.
7. Deal with Clients as Equal Partners
One key contributor to successful client relationships is to deal with clients as equal partners. When you deal with your client in a purely businesslike manner, the relationship ends up as a purely transactional one. However, when you treat them as equal stakeholders, the association is a healthy mix of personal, purposeful and transactional encounters. It holds on as a relationship where both your and the client’s unique identities are preserved.
➔ At the end of the day, both of you are in a business that is aiming for profitability, and skirting around that fact is best avoided. Your client needs your service to generate revenue, and you need their continued business to make yours profitable.
➔ Make sure your deliverable structure is clear and follow the plan as much as possible, but yet leave some room for fluidity. Do also leave the door open for constructive input and feedback.
➔ While many of your tools and processes are proprietary information, share tidbits of data when possible. Sharing non-confidential information that you usually would not share would make your client feel special and help earn their trust.
➔ Stay honest, and if need be, give pushback on the client’s desires that may not work out in the long term. A good partnership is one where two parties reconcile their different perspectives as opposed to one where both are in constant agreement with the other. Doing so results in better output than what could have been achieved individually.
8. Indulge in Small Talk
Small talk often is ignored as being inconsequential when talking about business. However, it can actually help break the ice and can help build strong client relationships. At first, it may be uncomfortable. But, you would be surprised at the receptive nature of the clients towards small talk. Light-hearted banter at meetings helps generate good rapport and makes them pleasant affairs and meaningful too.
It is second nature for people to love talking about themselves - and clients are no different. These offbeat conversations should show that you care for them outside of business deals and performance metrics, and small talk is integral to client relationship goals.
9. Carry Out Quarterly Business Reviews
Quarterly business reviews are essential for building client relationships and a great way to share knowledge regarding project development and status. Evaluating the deliverables and what has been accomplished thus far can also be the subject of quarterly business reviews. These regular meetings help in building trust with clients.
➔ Take stock of the progress and have a focused conversation regarding the strategy implementation going forward.
➔ Quarterly business reviews give an opportunity for the agency and the client to evaluate current and future goals.
➔ The customer can provide insight into their shifting priorities and how new strategies need to be developed to match those priorities.
10. Request for Feedback and Act Upon It
Ask for feedback on a regular basis from the client, and be sure to act on it. Feedback without follow-up will only impede the client-agency relationship.
So, when you solicit client feedback:
➔ Pay attention to it.
➔ Clear the air if required.
➔ Summarize your observations of the input.
Once the feedback is implemented, reach out to the client and inform them of the extent it has been carried out. When you reach out after implementing the feedback, the client gains confidence in working with you and is pleased that you are paying heed to them and are willing to take constructive criticism.
This can turn out to be a significant stepping stone toward building rock-solid relationships with clients. But if you tend to dismiss their concerns, do remember that there’s an agency representative somewhere else who will happily listen to them vent about you all day.
11. Display a Proactive Nature
You should be proactive with your client, share new ideas, and help them embrace technological changes that will serve as aids in performing day-to-day business activities seamlessly. Encourage your client to work independently of you with less handholding. Clients will definitely appreciate the gesture, and it will help promote trust.
12. If You Are Unsure, Be Honest
There is a tendency to agree with whatever the client says to close the business deal, and you may decide to look for a solution to the client's requirements. However, it is best to lay your cards on the table and be forthcoming about your capabilities and limitations. This will prevent either of you from getting disappointed at a later date, when the realization dawns that you can't meet the client's expectations, and for the client when he realizes that his work has hit a roadblock due to a lack of transparency on your part.
13. Focus Equally on All Your Clients
All clients would appreciate the idea of being treated with importance. After all, they are the very center of your firm’s existence and focus. Regardless of whether they run a big business or small, devote equal attention to them.
It is very much in the realm of possibility that a small client in terms of revenue could scale up and send plenty of business your way. Thus, ensure you interact with every client with the same warmth and importance you may be tempted to reserve for your more prominent clients.
14. Display Empathetic Behavior
Now your agency would be doing great work. All the figures paint your efforts in a positive light. But your client doesn’t see any new business heading their way, thus leaving them upset!
Instead of absolving yourself of any blame and saying that the business is doing fine will appear tone-deaf. Instead, let them air their woes and do listen to them. This may help you get some clues about the underlying problem and reach a resolution to their satisfaction faster.
Phrase your statements in such a way that you are endorsing teamwork to find a solution to the client’s troubles instead of making it us versus them. Some examples would be:
➔ “I understand what you’re talking about.”
➔ “This concern is a valid one.”
➔ “We empathize that this can be frustrating and are glad you brought this up.”
➔ “Let’s plan to review the situation and propose remedies to fix it.”
Be a partner in their progress. Even if you are an expert in their field, working together will inspire confidence in your client and will be the basis of a fruitful and trusting relationship.
15. Parting Ways can be on Good Terms
All customers may have needs that are complex or maybe above the scope of your organization. If you are unable to reconcile with their working ways, then parting ways could be the only option.
In such a scenario, avoid burning down any bridges, as even if you would not have to deal with them in the foreseeable future, their word-of-mouth reviews or recommendations may adversely affect your reputation.
Key Factors in Building a Clientele
- Being patient.
- Paying attention.
- Communicating well.
- Excellent time management.
- Displaying empathy.
- Balancing realism and optimism.
The keys to successful client relationships rely on the old-fashioned virtues of trust, transparency, and reliability, so start cultivating those partnerships today. Doing so will result in ideal outcomes for all the stakeholders involved.
Good client managers will acknowledge that there’s more to delivering than retaining a client. It’s also about maintaining a positive reputation in the client’s eyes so that they have only good things to say about you. When you treat clients as the people they are and not just as a means to an end for making money, you immediately stand out from the pack.
It would be impossible to say with certainty that following these tips will stay with you for the long haul. As even the best client managers will confirm - it is possible to lose out on key clients for reasons out of their control, such as budgeting or priority changes.
If you feel there is a lack of harmony with your clients and productivity has taken a back seat when dealing with them, adopting the strategies mentioned above could help in improving the connections with your clients and developing client management best practices. If you wish to learn more about client communication and relationships, do not miss reading our blog.