It is a company’s goal to establish a thriving client relationship. However, not all businesses are as well connected to their clients as they ought to be. It is understandable that some relationships just work and are easy, while others demand more effort and don’t come naturally. It is your job to master them all so clients see you as a resource, an advocate and someone who has their back.
Here are six critical steps to ensure your relationships with your clients are long term, honest and strong:
1. Your Responsibility. It is your responsibility to make the relationship work. It is true that both parties are responsible in a relationship, but as a leader, the bigger person and the driving force behind the relationship is you. It is your job to initiate communication with clients. You must take the time to call and check up on existing clients, and learn to present ways to communicate regularly that might work for them. By waiting on the client to manage things, you are not owning that responsibility. If you get participation from your clients in developing the relationship then view it as a bonus. If you take responsibility for the state of the relationship, you will always know your place.
2.Get Results. Business relationships are fundamentally built around the work. Even if you are the greatest person on earth, if your project or service is inadequate then your relationship will ultimately fail. Sure, a good personality and friendship might give you some extra chances, but make no mistake, results are what a client is coming to you for. If you need to manage other people in your organization to ensure your client gets what they need, then do it. Raise issues up as they arise, and advocate for your client over internal channels or internal apathy.
3.Systemize the Communication. Formalize the methods you use with a client so they get updates, reports, emails and status’ on tasks regularly. Make your communication reliable, on time, and at the same time daily or weekly. Silence or no news is always risky because in the absence of your factual information, people’s opinions seep in. People always think the worst when they don’t hear from you. It is better to send consistent reports that show no change, than to provide no feedback at all.
4.Ask for Feedback. We all dread the idea of asking for feedback, but it is essential in understanding where your client relationship stands. People who are surprised when a client lets them go shouldn’t be. They are only surprised because they never had the courage to ask the client how things were going, and where they could have improved. Valuable insights into your service, your product and even innovations can come from asking clients for feedback. It is a vital relationship and business tool.
5.Be Courageous. Tough conversations around price, delivery and client cooperation are going to come up. If you are feeling bad or there is the proverbial white elephant in the room, your job is to bring up the issues before your client does. You must be proactive about issues, able to voice concerns for the client from their perspective, and willing to admit mistakes. You will find that people appreciate courageous communication.
6.Make It Personal. Your overall relationship is about the company and the delivery of a product or service. That being said, a strong relationship is completely personal. You want to get a client something as a gift? Then make sure to actually get them a gift they will enjoy, not just something that benefits your company. A price discount on an order doesn’t go nearly as far as tickets to a concert, flowers, cookies or a gift card does. Remember that romancing a client requires that your gestures, words and efforts are personal first, and corporate second.
Maintaining strong client relationships is the backbone of any successful business, and the sign of a good leader. A company’s relationship with its clients often determines its sustainability and prosperity. While it is common, and even great practice to seek out new business opportunities, you don’t need to rely on gaining new clients to get new projects. Working with existing customers can keep your pipeline full, and can even lead to referrals to new clients.
Besides communicating with clients, it is also important that clients are easily able to reach you and your company whenever they want. Customers are more loyal to companies they can contact easily if they have any issues or complaints. This is not only the responsibility of the business owner, but of the entire team. To be successful in this, you must make sure your customer representatives are well trained, and that there is an effective customer relationship management system. Additionally, this also requires functional phone lines or email address that clients have easy access to.
Lastly, a great and effective method to impress clients is to deliver projects either on time or ahead of schedule without compromising on quality. Make yourself reliable. As well, this commitment to delivering results in a timely manner lets customers make any necessary changes to deliverables. This leads to greater overall customer satisfaction, and increased trust in your company offerings and services.