Every person that deals with customers every day has good relationships with some and others that are not as connected as they’d would like. It is understandable that some relationships just work and are easy, while others demand more effort and don’t come naturally. Your job is to master them all, so all clients see you as a resource, an advocate and someone who has their back. Here are 6 critical steps to ensure your relationship with your clients are long term, honest and strong:
1) Your Responsibility. It is YOUR responsibility to make the relationship work. Yes, yes, it is both parties responsibility in a relationship but the bigger person and the driving force behind the relationship in this case, is you. You initiate communication with clients. You call to check in. You present ways to communicate regularly that might work for them. If you wait for 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. Own the responsibility for the state of the relationship and you’ll always know when you stand.
2) Get Results. Business relationships are fundamentally built around the work. You can be the greatest person on earth but if your project or service is being poorly delivered then the 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 needs. If you need to manage other people in your organization to ensure your client gets what they need then do it. Raise issues up the flagpole 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 things regularly. Make your communication reliable – on time and at the same time daily or weekly. No news or silence 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. You are better to send consistent reports that say, no change, than to provide no word at all.
4) Ask for Feedback. We all dread the idea of asking for feedback but it is essential to knowing 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 tool 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. You are proactive about issues, able to voice concerns for the client, from their perspective, and willing to admit mistakes. People appreciate courageous communication.
6) Make It Personal. Your overall relationship is about the company and the delivery of a product or service. That said, a strong relationship is completely personal. You want to get a client something as a gift, get them a gift not the company. A price discount on an order doesn’t go nearly as far as tickets to a concert, flowers, cookies or a Starbucks card. Remember that romancing a client requires that your gestures, words and efforts are personal first, and corporate second.
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