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The Complete Guide to Building Relationships with Clients
Imagine you’re trying out a new restaurant. You eat lunch there one day and have a good experience. The following week you go for dinner. The food is significantly less appealing this time, and you find a hair in your soup. Do you go back for a third visit?
Probably not. If you were a regular customer and you usually enjoyed yourself, it would be easier to write off the bad experience as a fluke. As it is, you’re probably going to eat elsewhere from now on.
And this holds for any business — or really any person or organization you interface with. When you have a solid relationship, you’re much less likely to abandon ship if the waters get rough.
It’s the difference between your best friend and a general acquaintance. You’ve put in the time with your friend to build a lasting relationship, and it would take a lot to destroy it. Someone you barely know? One lousy interaction, and that relationship is finished.
If you aren’t building long-term relationships with your clients, you’re making retention much harder on yourself. Adding new business becomes more difficult as well. This article will discuss hold to create relationships that last.
DON’T JUST COMMUNICATE — OVERCOMMUNICATE
The importance of consistent communication can’t be stressed enough. When your clients feel they’re involved in the day-to-day of their projects and understand what you’re doing to keep things on track, they’ll feel more comfortable.
If something goes wrong, let them know immediately and bring solutions to the table. When things are going well, check in with periodic updates. If you happen to be in the neighborhood, stop in for a quick “hello.” Give them a chance to voice any concerns they might not have been comfortable discussing otherwise.
If you aren’t working with the client currently, keep the lines of communication open. Client relationships are just like any other relationship. If you take them for granted, they can whither, and your clients may look elsewhere.
MAKE IT EASY FOR CLIENTS TO LEAVE FEEDBACK
When you touch a hot stove, what makes you pull your hand away quickly to avoid permanent damage? Feedback! Your nerves provide feedback to your brain, in the form of pain signals, letting it know it made a mistake.
Feedback is critical for long-term relationships, too. Unhappy clients can be made whole, but only if you address their concerns. The easier you make it for your clients to check in with you, the more often they’ll do it. Consider that clients will always contact you for significant problems — it’s the minor inconveniences and other tiny offenses that they sometimes keep to themselves. If these go unresolved long enough, they can damage the relationship.
You can increase feedback by asking for it at the end of every client contact. A simple “anything bugging you?” is often enough to get people talking. You can also create a feedback page on your website.
DIGITAL’S GREAT, BUT SOMETIMES ANALOG IS BETTER
Yes, email’s convenient. But it’s also cold and impersonal. You can fire off a thank you email in a few minutes, but will anyone read it? If they do, will they be impressed that you took the easiest option available?
If you want your communications to resonate emotionally with your clients, handwritten notes are significantly more effective than emails or text messages. Emails are fast and disposable. One looks the same as any other. Handwritten notes, on the other hand, are warm and personal. They take time and intention to create. They demonstrate to your clients how much you value them. You could say “thanks” or ask for a referral with an email, but if you want it to count, you should put it in a card.
Now here’s the twist. The only things better than analog cards are analog cards created digitally! Simply Noted allows users to create authentic, handwritten cards through a simple online interface. Upload your messages and addresses, and our handwriting machines will fill your order with real ballpoint pens and AI-powered smart fonts that ensure a genuine handwritten experience.
DEFINE YOUR RELATIONSHIP
No, this doesn’t mean setting your relationship status to “It’s complicated.” It means defining expectations for both parties so that there’s less chance for misunderstandings.
Businesses need to be clear about what their services include and what they don’t. Not only does this avoid confusion, but it also gives clients a point of reference for when you exceed expectations. Define what you’re going to do generally and on a project-by-project basis. And when you say you’re going to do something, do it, every time.
On the other side of the relationship, make sure your client knows what you expect from them. Because like any relationship, accountability goes in both directions. If your clients regularly gum up the works by missing deadlines and under-delivering on their end of the bargain, the relationship will begin to sour for you.
ALWAYS ADMIT YOUR MISTAKES
Dishonesty is one of the fastest ways to kill a relationship. When your client doesn’t have faith in your word, you’ll have a difficult time proving your worth, and with each erosion of trust, more cracks form in your relationship’s foundation.
So when you make a mistake, own up to it — quickly. Let your client know what happened and present multiple solutions. Let them know why it happened and what you’re doing to make things right. Admitting mistakes, particularly when your client isn’t yet aware of them, will do wonders for their trust in you.
BE A REAL PERSON
No one has relationships with business associates. People relate to you when you’re authentic. So be vulnerable. Don’t wall yourself off in the name of professionalism. Treat your clients with an emotional openness approaching what you would afford a friend.
Don’t overshare, of course. Simply be available for an interface, should it interest your clients. Being present in your conversations puts clients at ease and ingratiates you to them. As with any close relation, and camaraderie develops that, if cared for, can grow into a long-term client.