Strengthening client relationships: Techniques for lasting success

Strengthening client relationships: Techniques for lasting success

Have you ever seen a rockstar give a speech after winning an award and say something like, "I could never have done this without the support of my fans"?

In business, you're the rockstar and your clients are the fans. Whether adored or abhorred, clients are your lifeboat: They're the ones you're in business for.

So today, let's talk about building healthy client relationships to nurture long-term trust and loyalty.

Understanding client needs

I always make a point to check in with my clients regularly, just to see how things are going. If they have any concerns or questions, we can hash them out quickly and clarify any misunderstandings.  

Client feedback is an opportunity to learn. Perhaps negative feedback about project outcomes doesn't reflect poor execution but rather insufficient information to start with.

It's a good idea to take notes during these conversations and compile a reference document detailing specific requests your client has. Keep it updated regularly.

Effective communication

Effective communication lies at the core of healthy client relationships. I break it down into the three Rs:

  1. Be respectful: Keep communications clear, empathetic and professional at all times.
  2. Be responsive: When a client contacts you, aim to get back to them as soon as reasonably possible — even if it's to acknowledge the message and tell them when they can expect an answer. This shows you're proactive.
  3. React: If an issue arises, clarify with the client as early as you can. Sometimes, an email will suffice, while other times, you'll need a call with relevant stakeholders. Come to the table with solutions and try to understand their ideal outcomes. Showing up and being willing to work together for mutually beneficial outcomes is often enough to calm the storm.

Fostering client loyalty

Getting to know my clients personally — not just professionally — has helped strengthen relationships. Not only does this enhance loyalty, but it's made a few of them an absolute dream to work with. Here's a couple of strategies to build trust:

  • Exceed expectations (where possible): At times, I've given a delivery timeframe slightly over what I can realistically complete a project by. That way, I've got a buffer if something comes up. Usually, it means I can deliver early.
  • Remember important dates: Make your clients feel special. Send them a message on birthdays and holiday seasons or to congratulate them on wins.
  • Add value to their business: Consider how you can support your client's success, then discuss it with them. If you play your cards right, you might even get an upsell.
  • Show up consistently: Take extra care to ensure your communications remain consistent in tone and regularity.

Handling difficult situations

There are a few nifty ways to steer complaints into client satisfaction without too many casualties.

To start, take the time to acknowledge the problem and understand concerns. Once you've listened, aim to focus on a solutions-based conversation.

Your client's expertise is in their own business, not yours, so they won't always understand what you can and cannot achieve. Your role is to explain in layman's terms whether something is possible and why.

I try to remain respectful and objective during tough conversations. And it's always a nice touch to reiterate that you value their feedback and custom.

Strengthen client relationships with further education

Resilient client relationships are curated over long periods. What's more, trust-building is often a result of one or two well-managed conflicts. If you want to enhance client loyalty and bring your relationships to a higher level, you'll discover more in-depth strategies and techniques in ICML's Building Client Relationships course.

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