It costs five times more to get a new client than it does to keep one. So it’s more important than ever to ensure good client relationships. Here are 8 tips on how to create and maintain good client relations.
1. Be on time! Being late tells people that their time is not important. They are human and typically understand if there are occasional situations, but make sure to call, apologize, and respect their time. Don’t make it a habit though, as they will look for another vendor who they can depend on.
2. Get contracts up front. This is critical as it eliminates future issues and misunderstandings. Without a document stating everyone’s expectations there can’t be any transactions. It needs to be stated very clearly as to each parties expectations of the relationship, whether it be delivery schedule, payment agreements, return policies etc. Trust me, this will make future discussions much nicer and productive.
3. Be a “solutions partner”, not just a vendor. Remember, your client runs a business that supports their family and others. Help your client by being a solutions partner — not just another vendor. If your client is looking for an accountant, do you have one you’d be comfortable recommending? If you see a shipping opportunity that might fit your client, do you pass it on? The little solutions you provide show your client you want to be their partner in success.
4. Don’t hit “reply” on an angry email. There are always times that clients frustrate us. But instead of firing off an angry email, take some time and remove yourself from the situation. If you need to get it off your chest, write it out and vent. Your clients are your business and your salary; you need to deal with a level-headed approach. Don’t lose a client because of something you can control.
5. The customer is always right? It’s just not realistic, there are times we all make mistakes. Your shipment is not what they ordered or they wanted it tomorrow, not next week, etc. You need to decide if the mistake is going to end your business relationship or you are going to work with them to solve the problem You’re both working towards the same goal, so be sure to structure your conversation in that way and be a “solutions partner.”
6. Schedule recurring calls. This allows the client to express feelings about how the relationship is going, bring up issues, and build rapport. It also gives them the security blanket that you are a person they know, like, and trust. That doesn’t happen if you only come by when you want an order. Each client is different, so ask them the frequency that they are comfortable with as you don’t want to micromanage the account.
7. Schedule a face-to-face meeting. Nothing beats face-to-face conversation. It lets you see your client’s body language. Does their body language express one thing while they are saying something entirely different? It also allows personal touch; it's important to shake hands and smile to build your relationship.
8. Write Thank You notes. More important than a gift is a handwrittten thank you note. It tells the client that you took the time to make it personal. People really appreciate the time and thought, so take the time! That one minute can eliminate many issues down the road.
While reading this you might think these techniques and practices seem simplistic, but you need to realize that it only takes that “little extra” effort to make someone's experience extraordinary and make your business stand out from the competition. So go get your thank you cards and your schedule book and be the one who people talk about to their peers. Then you can watch as your business grows.