Some companies interact with their customers for a brief time exclusively during the business transaction, while others maintain close relationships with their clients for years. For businesses that create client relationships, positive, long-term connections are essential. Building client relationships should be a focus for client-centered companies to ensure financial success.
It’s common for independent professionals to focus their resources on gaining new business. However, new projects don’t always mean new clients. Building and maintaining strong relationships with existing clients can set you up for repeat business. And even if such clients don’t return to you, they may recommend you to a friend or colleague.
This article explains why strong client relationships are important and describe how to build and maintain relationships, and provides tips for developing great client relationships.
Why are strong client relationships important?
It’s a well-known fact that long-term clients spend more over time, which can greatly impact your bottom line. So if you want to build a small business that stands the test of time, you need to focus on building relationships with clients—and making those relationships long-lasting.
Like any relationship, if you want your relationships with customers to thrive, you need to put in the time, work, and effort. But what does that actually look like?
Satisfied customers might recommend your company, product, or service to a colleague, leading to new business. With positive, enduring client relationships, companies can achieve overall business success and create larger projects for their customers’ benefit.
How to build and maintain good client relationships
Use these steps to establish and maintain good relationships with your clients:
Preferred and Exceptional Communication
The most successful client relationships are the ones that foster open communication. Your clients need to be able to get in touch with you, feel comfortable asking you questions, and, in general, feel like you’re easy to reach and communicate with.
Do whatever it takes to foster open communication with your client.
Offer them multiple ways to get in touch with you, such as a cell phone number, office phone number, and email address. Be available to speak with your clients should they need you to show you care about them.
Of course, communication with a single client should not consistently and unreasonably encroach on your personal time or negatively affect your productivity. However, being available demonstrates that your client’s project and satisfaction are important to you.
Again, every client has different preferences, including how they like to communicate. Taking the time to understand how your customer likes to communicate will start the relationship off on the right foot—which, in turn, can help you lay the foundation for a strong relationship.
Acknowledge Your Client as an Individual
Building client relationships is just like building any other relationships; they’re built on mutual respect, kindness, and understanding. Or, in other words, your client is a person—and if you want to have a strong relationship with them, you need to treat them like one.
A little kindness, warmth, and old-fashioned common courtesy can go a long way when creating clients’ relationships.
While your relationship with your client is of a professional nature, acknowledging that you see them as a person can go a long way. The extent to which this personal connection is appropriate will vary depending on your industry, client type, and the individual client’s personality.
Make an effort to build a personal rapport with your client, so they see you as a person and advocate rather than just an email address. Creating a personal connection is key to establishing a strong client relationship.
Treating your client with warmth and courtesy is important. But it’s also important not to overstep your professional boundaries. You want to be friendly, but remember that you’re dealing with a client—not a buddy. Avoid anything too personal (and definitely avoid anything that could be construed as offensive or inappropriate).
If your client doesn’t understand your area of expertise, they may feel ignorant about the process’s intricacies and therefore disconnected from the development of the project. This is your opportunity to share information that will help the client understand what you do, which will build trust and confidence in the process. Explaining to your client what you did, why you did it, and how you came to your decision will help them feel knowledgeable and in-the-loop.
Create tutorials and training sessions for your product or service if you think your customers could benefit from them. Keeping your clients informed allows them to feel comfortable throughout the process.
Be Open about Your Opinions
To build strong and lasting client relationships, they must trust and rely on you as an expert. That’s why it’s crucial to maintain a policy of openness regarding your professional opinions and point of view regarding the best interests of the project. It can be tempting to want to appear agreeable and avoid uncomfortable confrontation by telling a client what you think they want to hear or withholding your true opinion about their project.
However, these practices are not only counterproductive but can also damage your reputation, decreasing your chances of a lasting relationship. By confidently expressing your honest opinions, clients will respect your initiative and desire for excellence.
The difference between having a good versus a great relationship with your client will, in large part, depend on how you show up for them.
Going above and beyond to make sure your client has a positive experience—and that your work exceeds their expectations—will solidify the relationship. You’ll also become the go-to resource for your clients.
It’s also one of the best ways to help build strong client relationships and develop a reputation as an independent professional who delivers exceptional results. When possible, exceed your client’s expectations for service, timeline, and delivery. By setting reasonable expectations, you allow yourself to completely impress the client with the final project and position yourself as someone they would like to continue to work with.
Consider your client and determine what would be valuable to them. It could be as simple as delivering the project in an aesthetically pleasing format, hand-delivering the materials and giving an in-depth walkthrough or demonstration, or including a small value-adding feature that enhances the finished results. For loyal clients, a token of appreciation and thanks after key business milestones or around the holidays can be an unexpected pleasure that strengthens your professional relationship. The key is to find the opportunity to go above and beyond in a manner that your clients will appreciate.
Ask for Feedback and Implement It
You want to do the best job possible for all your clients, and to do that, you need to ask for feedback. But feedback isn’t going to strengthen your relationship unless you actually take that feedback and use it to improve.
When a client offers feedback, take the time to really listen. Ask questions. Repeat what you understand back to them to ensure that you’re on the same page. Then, take that feedback, apply it to what you’re working on together, and follow up to confirm that they’re happy with the changes.
By acting on your clients’ feedback, you’re showing them that you hear them, respect them, and be willing to do whatever it takes to ensure they’re happy with your work—all crucial elements in building a long-lasting client relationship.
Make Their Life Easier
People value ease and convenience. If you want to foster positive and strong relationships with your clients, make sure the process of working with you is as easy as possible.