Regardless of what industry you work in, it’s no surprise that a strong relationship with your clients is crucial to your success and their success.
And while managing the client relationship can sometimes be overwhelming, frustrating, and time-consuming, exercising these four things can make the relationship a whole lot more enjoyable for everyone.
Here are four tips all client-facing individuals should know.
1. Set Realistic Expectations, And Then Exceed Them
When you enter into a relationship with a client, it's imperative to set realistic expectations. Lacking to do so can lead to a quick demise for both parties.
Setting the right expectations directly links back to gaining your client's trust and begins in the sales process. When you are trying to secure a new client you need to be clear about the purpose of the relationship and what the client can expect from your company.
What services can they expect to receive from you? How many points of contact should they expect to have? How often should they expect to hear from you? Setting clear expectations eliminates room for confusion and disappointment.
Clients are very big on deadlines. I can’t even count how many times I’ve heard the phrase, “How quickly can you get this back to me?”
Working in client services, it’s in your nature to be agreeable, but if you say “yes” to something that is unrealistic, it will come back to bite you and hurt the relationship. Always under commit and over deliver.
If you’re a client reading this, you might not like what you’re hearing, but from our perspective, I promise this is for your best interest. As an account manager, it is your job to always think one step ahead.
When committing to a deadline, it’s imperative to factor time in for issues to arise and then hope that they don’t. If you promise your client a deadline, that date is getting passed up the chain to their boss and their boss's boss, etc.
So, if something happens on your end that puts you behind deadline, even if it’s completely out of your control (like a technological glitch), your client now has to pass that news along to their higher-ups. You’ve put them in a bad spot and in the process damaged the trust they had in you.
2. Use Clear and Positive Communication
No matter what is going on in your personal life or if you’re extremely stressed at work, always approach your client communications in an upbeat and positive way.
This sets up each conversation you have with your client to be a more successful one. You want to be an enjoyable part of your clients day and show that you like working with them and care about their company as a whole and them as an individual.
While you may communicate a bit differently with each of your clients based on their needs, there are some tips you can follow to constantly improve your communication skills.
Using clear communication allows you to be respectful of your clients time. If a non-urgent problem arises on your end, do not go straight to the client with it. They’re paying you for your knowledge and expertise so do not involve them and waste their time until the problem has been fixed.
If the problem cannot be fixed quickly and you feel you must tell your client what’s happened, make sure your email explaining the issue also highlights how your team plans to fix the problem.
The exception to involving a client immediately is if an emergency arises and the client must be briefed right away. At that point, let the client know what has happened, that you’re working to fix the issue, and that you will provide more details and updates as you receive them.
When sending anything to the client for approval, make sure to specify what the next steps are once that item is given the green light. This helps everyone involved in the project understand the importance of this step in relation to the whole initiative and who is next to contribute to this project.
If you are sticking to a timeline, also specify when the next step of the project will happen to help keep everyone accountable and on track for the completion date.
3. Be Transparent
As an extension of your client, it’s imperative that everyone associated with the account on both ends is aligned.
It is your responsibility as the account manager to foster this relationship on the client end and also with your internal team. By having an internal team that is open and honest, you’re given a lot of the information that you need to in turn be transparent with your clients.
You have a better understanding of the inner workings of the services you offer, just how long it takes to perform those services, and further insight as to how your team is improving those services.
Clients look to you to be the expert in your field and should be able to trust your judgment. That being said, it’s okay to disagree with your client if it’s in the best interest of the project.
While it may seem easier to agree and avoid confrontation, you’re doing your client a disservice by saying “yes” when “yes” isn’t the best option. By showing confidence in your opinion, you’re building respect and trust with your clients because they’ll see that you have their best interests at heart.
4. Be Proactive
If a client comes to you with information for a project that will not start for a few weeks, take the time now to make sure you have all the pieces you need to complete the request.
By doing so, you can immediately let the client know what items are missing that you still need and that if those items are not received by the start date of the project this can put you behind deadline. This should give your client enough time to square things away on their end so that you can get what you need on your end.
Additionally, thinking through the future project at the time it’s presented allows you to speculate on other things that might end up being issues once the project gets started. While you can’t avoid all issues, eliminating some from the get-go will certainly be helpful.
Being proactive is ongoing and ties hand-in-hand with knowing your clients extremely well.
When sending anything to your client – a project for review, an answer to a problem, a strategic idea – think through all the additional questions that might arise on your client's end and address them in the initial email you’re sending.
This eliminates a lot of potential confusion, irritation, and unnecessary back-and-forth communication. It also shows the client that you’re always keeping their goals in mind and that you’re forward thinking about the success of their company.
With these four tips in mind, your relationship with current and future customers can thrive!