Retaining a client is much more cost-effective than bringing new clients in the door all the time, and maintaining successful client relationships is the key to retention. If you’re looking to create and maintain positive client relationships, here are 10 different things you can do to make that happen:
1. Don’t take them for granted.
Once you’ve established a successful client relationship, it’s tempting to want to sit on your laurels and coast. While this may be the easier route, resist the temptation and instead look for ways to constantly improve. Your competitors are probably hustling to get in business right now, and you don’t want a great client to decamp for another company because they’re trying and you’re not. Don’t take a great client for granted; give them the time and attention they deserve, whether that’s assigning them a dedicated support team or sending them some promotional products as a thank you.
2. Understand their goals.
This is an ongoing process because your clients’ goals will likely change as your relationship with them goes on. You need to understand their initial goals, and then keep striving to understand their new goals as they evolve over time. Dig deep to understand what the client is trying to accomplish with your product or service so you can best determine how to help them accomplish it.
3. Check in regularly.
On the subject of understanding their goals, it’s important to check in with your customers regularly. Don’t just wait for the client to reach out to you — initiate conversations with them at least some of the time. You should also have regular meetings on a cadence that makes sense for you all. The meeting could be weekly, every other week, once a month, or even once a quarter. You might also need multiple standing meetings on different schedules. If you do a lot of different work for the client (for instance, if you are a full service marketing team) they might want to meet weekly with the account manager but only once a month with the merchandising team to figure out corporate gifts for clients.
4. Ask for feedback.
These check-ins shouldn’t purely be a vehicle for you to relay information to the client. You should also use them as an opportunity to solicit feedback from the customer about how your company is doing and what can be improved. You should also consider sending out semi-regular surveys to all of your clients so you can collect their feedback in aggregate and see if there are trends across your company.
5. Share your knowledge.
You are the subject matter expert on your company, so embrace that role and willingly share knowledge with your customer. If they are stuck on something, they shouldn’t be reluctant to reach out to you for help, so make it clear that they’re not being a burden and that you or your customer service team is always happy to assist them. Don’t be condescending when you help them, though; remember that few people are as familiar with your product or service as you are, so things that seem obvious to you may be totally unfamiliar to them.
6. Set expectations, then exceed them.
The advice “under-promise and over-deliver” is commonly given to the sales team, but it’s also a great approach to follow even after the client has signed the contract. As your working relationship develops, make sure that you’re giving yourself some wiggle room when it comes to setting deadlines or describing the capabilities of your product or service. It’s tempting to hype up your company, especially if you really believe in it, but it’s better to slightly softball things and then exceeds expectations than for the reverse to happen.
7. Communicate clearly.
Clarity and transparency are absolutely crucial for maintaining a great client relationship. Be honest and upfront with them about what’s happening and send them regular reports (even if the report is “no change, everything’s great right now”). Nobody wants to work with someone whose communication is confusing or, even worse, deliberately complicates the situation.
8. See them as partners.
Yes, your client is paying you for a product or service, but rather than seeing it as a transaction, try to see your working relationship as more of a partnership. Together, you all can do much better work than you could on your own, so keep that top of mind. Remember that you’re ultimately working with other people who have their own quirks and personalities, whether they are representing a small business or a huge conglomerate.
9. Be proactive, not reactive.
We’ve hinted at this throughout some of the other tips, but it’s important enough to deserve a section of its own. When a client is going well, you might be inclined to sit back and wait to see if any issues arise, and then deal with them if and when that happens. However, it’s better to get out in front of potential problems and bring things up before they can snowball instead of waiting for the clients to point them out to you. This allows you to set the tone of the discussion and present a plan of action before the client can begin to worry.
10. Make mistakes right.
If you work with a client long enough, at some point your company is going to make a mistake. It’s just the nature of running a business, so you need to be prepared for it. When this does happen, instead of getting defensive and making excuses, remain empathetic to how it has impacted the client and act swiftly to make it right. Most clients will be really understanding as long as you apologize and act promptly to fix it, and they probably won’t say no to an apology gift in the form of some branded merchandise.
Follow these steps to create positive relationships with your clients that will stand the test of time. No matter what industry you work in or what your company sells, these tips apply to pretty much all client relationships.