How to keep good client relationships
Whether you’re an agency, a contractor, or solo consultant, strong client relationships are essential to success. After getting the customers, you need to keep them happy. If you’ve ever had client-facing role, it’s easy to spot the differences between a good and a bad client relationship.
Good client relationships make you feel like you are partners in crime and true team players. Your relationship shows trust, mutual respect, and honesty. If you’ve reached this point, then you couldn’t ask for more. The likelihood of your relationship growing into bigger and better things is on the up and you’re more than likely to get a referral – gold dust.
If you’ve ever had that anxious, stomach churning feeling when you see a client’s email drops into your inbox, then you have a bad relationship. If you find yourself being chased all the time, frustrated with constant emails and clients who are needy, you’ve got a case of poor communication, unmet expectations, and ultimately, a breakdown of relationships.
In short, strong relationships with your clients are directly linked to the experience. Those who put effort into deeply understanding client experience are better off. If you can’t describe, for sure, how your client feels about you, if they are happy with your service, okay with your reputation, then you are not spending enough time on building that relationship.
Having this understanding makes for a powerful tool to use later down the line. Think about your relationship like a bank account. Whenever you deliver on time, meet expectations, and ask the right questions, put cash in.
When you fail to deliver, fail to manage expectations, and diminish the result, take cash out. If you withdraw too much cash, you’ll be in debt. Put plenty of cash in, you have a healthy bank balance. Client relationships are exactly the same. Make too many mistakes and you’ll end up ruining the relationship.
So, to keep those deposits coming in, what’s the best course of action?
The keys to healthy client relationships
Obsess about communication
Show that your client’s project and happiness are important to you. To do this, be prompt at each touch point; whether you’ve received an email or a phone call, let them know you’re on it even if you don’t have the answers.
Show organisation and discipline by sending revised project schedules, updated budgets and planned tasks for the week. Some may consider this over the top, but as projects progress items will slip and when you need to have the ‘more money’ conversation, it can make it easier.
Most of all, a simple check in will suffice. Every few days drop an email, organise a meeting, pick up the phone to provide an update on how projects are going. The item to note here is ensuring respect of each other’s time by creating agendas.
Build a reputation based on great results. Great results are achieved by setting the right expectations and delivering on your promises with energy and communication; in other words, do not oversell. Set smart, achievable expectations that provide the opportunity to impress through a deep understanding of your limitations.
When you have gathered client expectations, be clear with what you can reasonably deliver – in person, email, or over the phone – and produce a formal proposal. Beyond this, ask yourself, what would be valuable to the client? Perhaps provide surprise perks – maybe a Christmas gift (very timely 😉) or a box of muffins at a meeting. Go above and beyond in a way that your clients appreciate your efforts.
They have hired you as an expert in your field and to communicate what is and isn’t possible. So, be honest and open, and the client will respect your passion for excellence. It is tempting to want to nod your head, say yes, and agree with everything your client is saying. Although, you’ll often find they want to be challenged; be confrontational and give an unfiltered opinion.
Transparency is also achieved through specificity. Avoid ambiguity around delivery times, outcomes, and methods. This behaviour will open you up to more criticism and questions, especially when mistakes are made. Set specific parameters and you will be rewarded with a stronger relationship.
In short, client relationships come down to performance and performance is directly linked to the client experience. If you make mistakes, don’t hide them. Make a point of delivering bad news before the client asks about it – you will be surprised that overall, they will completely understand. Be professional and reassure you are putting solutions in place to rectify the issues – this will build trust and strengthen your relationship.
What tips do you have for maintaining healthy client relationships? Comment below.
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