Client relationships, like any relationship, take time to build. One of the greatest ways a company can differentiate themselves from their competitors is by the level of service they provide. And to provide a great level of service, you must have great client relationships.
Firms will often miss the mark on developing client relationships when their primary focus is more on "closing the deal" or increasing revenue. Building client relationships begins with establishing a foundation of trust, open communication, and commitment to your client. Below are five ways to build your interactions with your clients in order to better distinguish yourself from your competitors and boost your firm's bottom line.
Investing Your Time
1. Building relationships takes time. Taking the time to get to know your clients makes them feel important and is one of the best investments you can make in growing your firm. Get to know your client's industry, if you don't know it already, and what key issues they may be facing on a regular basis. You want them to know that you value the work that they do and are truly interested in the success of their business. In doing this you may even uncover issues that they may not be aware of. Such information is valuable to them and confirms your expertise in your field.
Your status as an outside expert gives you a distinct advantage over an insider. Where the real value lies is when your firm can establish a deep enough understanding of your client's challenges that you are able to apply the entire gamut of your skills to their problems.
Communication Is Key
2. Respond quickly and communicate regularly. Always aim for exceptional communication between you and your client. It's very hard to over communicate.
When questions arise, make sure you are responding to their inquiries within a timely fashion. You may not be able to answer their question at the moment but a quick response is better than no response. You may even set up an automated response when necessary. Being available makes it clear to your client that they are important to you.
3. Follow-up and follow-through. In addition to timely and thorough communication with your clients, it's important to always follow-up after conversations that you have with them. Recapping your conversation with a quick email communicates that you listen to them. Always follow-through with what you said you were going to do. Keeping your commitment helps builds trust.
More importantly, do not make promises you can't keep. If you are unable to make a deadline, then it's important you communicate that to your client in advance. Your clients measure your actions and your ability to follow-through. Failing to keep your commitments could result in losing future opportunities and damaging your client relationship permanently.
4. Going the extra mile is something your client will always remember. If you have adhered to any of the "ways to build better communication" above then most likely you have already exceeded their expectations. Offering value, nurturing good relationships, producing great results, strong communication and keeping your commitment is all part of "going the mile." But don't stop there!
A client with an extraordinarily great experience will not only return in the future, but they are also more likely to share their experience with others and make a referral. Exceeding their expectations not only gains their trust, but it gains their loyalty to you and adds value to your bottom line.
So what are some other examples of what it looks like to go the extra mile? Show gratitude by sending them a personal thank you note for their business. Check-in once in awhile to see how they are doing. Invite your top clients to breakfast or lunch. These are just a few of the many things you can do to go the extra mile and build your client relationships.
Remember The Golden Rule
5. Treat everyone the way you want to be treated. I know it sounds cliché, but imagine yourself on the receiving end and ask yourself "what kind of service would I like to receive from a firm like mine?" That means treat your clients with respect, be patient with them, be honest, keep them engaged, and always show gratitude. Make it your priority to maintain client confidentiality and be a person of your word. I'm sure you would prefer exceptional service over mediocre any day, so treat your clients exceptionally.
All clients are unique in their very own way. Some may require more fostering than others and sometimes others may require a different approach then what you are accustomed to. In order to maintain and build your client relationships, you must raise the expectations that you have of yourself and of others in your firm. Nonetheless, every client you have is vital to your firm's success; therefore you must continuously remember how valuable each and every client is to you.