November 11th, 2015
Building a relationship with a client is much like building a relationship with anyone else: it takes patience, dedication, and honesty. But, building strong relationships with your clients means going that extra mile. Strong, long-term relationships require open communication and the active participation of everyone involved in order to survive. Understand that relationships don’t have to end when projects do. Continue to be a valuable resource to your clients and they will look to you for assistance in the future.
So, where do you begin? A great way is to start paying more attention to how you begin your relationships with your clients. It’s easier to start out on the right foot than try and mend a relationship that may be hanging on by a thread. But, it’s never too late to start.
Set the Tone
To begin, make sure you have a clear contract with your client. This is an easy step to mess up since contracts are boring. But, too many relationships end over contract disputes and contract disputes are even less fun than writing one up. Create a timeline, set deadlines, and make sure everyone knows their role in the project. Ensure that your client knows exactly what your job entails and what will happen if asked to do anything outside of that description. Leave as little room for error as possible.
Next, move on to getting to know your client on a more personal level. We don’t mean deep conversation about the meaning of life or your relationships with your mothers. Simply take the time to learn about each other’s interests and life goals, especially if related to the current project. This will allow you to understand your clients personality and what they will be comfortable with while showing them that you are willing to open up as well.
As the project moves forward, make sure to ask the client for their opinion. They deserve input on the job being done. But, don’t be afraid to tell a client that something cannot be done or that an idea does not make sense to do. Honesty is the key here. Explain why and be respectful. You should expect the same level of respect back, but if you don’t, keep a cool head and think before responding to criticism. On the other hand, if your client has a good idea, let them know and work together to implement it.
Be responsive when your client needs help. Keep on top of emails and try not to miss phone calls. It will help to schedule times to talk over the phone or in person, but if an emergency comes up, respond in a timely manner. However, make sure you maintain boundaries when it comes to this. If a client calls at 2:00 a.m. on a Sunday, that is not acceptable and needs to be addressed. Do not let something like this continue until you are so frustrated that you lash out.
Give It Your All
Lastly, go that extra mile for your clients. Doing the bare minimum does not impress anyone or lead to more work. Clients will remember if you put in some extra work for them and really took the time to cater to their needs without having to ask. This makes your client feel important, which they should be.
The relationships you have with your clients should be lighthearted but professional. Don’t get so close to a client that you cannot properly do your job, but don’t distance yourself so much that you get no joy out of working with them. This is crucial to making each and every client feel equally valuable to your business.
However, it is also important to remember that some relationships just aren’t meant to be. If you and your client cannot see eye-to-eye no matter what, you may both need to look elsewhere to find the right fit and that is OK. In the end, everyone will leave the situation much happier.
Do you have any advice to add? Let us know in the comments!