Some companies manage to build a steady business that strengthens over the years, while others have huge swings and eventually close up shop. What’s the difference? Strong client relationships. While many factors lead to your success, one essential step is creating a solid foundation of clients who return to you over time and send future business your way through referrals.
The good news is, strong client relationships are much like any relationship. They require communication, empathy, and dependability. Here are 10 simple (though not always easy) ways to strengthen relationships with your clients.
1. Make Communication Easy and Comfortable
Do your clients know they can reach you with they need to? Do they know how? Strong client relationships require active communication, and that means your clients need to be comfortable reaching out. Let clients know if you are best reached by email, text message, Slack, or some other form of communication. You should also know how they prefer to be contacted.
Don’t leave it at easy to reach, though. You also want to ensure that your clients are comfortable approaching you. They shouldn’t feel like any question is too stupid to ask (after all, you’re the expert so they don’t have to be). Instead, they should see you as a friendly, approachable expert who will guide them through the process.
2. Reassure Clients
Often, someone approaches you because they have a problem they can’t solve, and it is interfering with their business or life. Understand that this places them in a vulnerable position.
First, be sure to let them know they are in good hands. They want to feel that they have found the solution (you) even if the details are not yet clear. Acknowledge that you truly understand their situation. They will then be ready to hear your strategy.
It can also help to refer to other clients who have been in a similar situation. By showing that you have worked with others in the same boat, you help them feel secure in choosing your business to meet their needs. You can do this in conversation or on your website through customer testimonials.
3. Treat Clients as Individuals
However, you do not want to push too far in the direction of, “Yes, we’ve seen this many times before.” Your clients shouldn’t feel that they are receiving some cookie-cutter advice that you dish out to everyone.
All clients, and their situations, are unique. Yes, they are similar, and yes, you can assure them that you have the experience to serve their needs. You probably even have a basic starting strategy for common problems.
Just don’t make your clients feel like a number. This doesn’t mean you need to remember the names of all their children or their dog’s birthday. You should have a solid understanding of why they have to come to you, though. The more personalized your approach and your communication, the stronger the relationship.
4. Continually Exceed Client Expectations
One of the best ways to build strong relationships with clients is to do a great job. Your product or service should meet their needs and then some. If you hear comments like, “Wow. I didn’t expect that,” then you’re heading in the right direction.
This doesn’t mean that you are undervaluing your time or your product. Often, exceeding expectations requires just a little extra thought. Perhaps your packaging is both beautiful and functional. Or maybe you follow up to ensure that everything works as expected.
If you show your clients that you pay attention to details and truly care about results, they will continue to turn to you.
5. Be a Good Listener
Have you ever had a conversation where felt like you just were not being understood? It’s frustrating to feel like your message is not getting through.
You don’t want your clients to be in this position. They’ll start to think that you either are unable to communicate or (even worse) that you don’t really care about their concerns. If they feel like their concerns are not being heard, they will likely be on the way out soon.
To avoid that unfortunate ending, you’ll want to listen to your clients. Don’t start jumping to solutions before you truly understand their problem.
6. Be a Person (Not an Email Address)
The best way to connect with clients is to meet them in person. Face-to-face communication is just more personal and effective. What if your business is fully remote? You can still be approachable. Put personality into your communication whenever possible and allow clients to know a little more about you and your business.
You don’t want to feel like some faceless entity they only email when there’s a problem. Instead, they should have an emotional connection with your and your business, and that only happens when you make the interactions personable.
7. Set a Clear Path
Clients want to know what to expect. Often, they come to you because they are in new territory. They don’t understand design or how to make a product. It’s a new world to them, and they are looking for a guide.
If you set out a clear process from the beginning, you reassure them that you know what you’re doing. You also help set expectations. Clients get anxious when there’s uncertainty, and you can avoid that by letting them know ahead of time what you plan to deliver and when you plan to deliver it.
8. Take Responsibility for Mistakes
Sometimes we make mistakes. While we try to cover all the bases and keep everything running smoothly, life happens on occasion.
The worst approach in this situation is to disappear, trying to hide until you fix the problem, or ignore it altogether. Typically, the longer you wait to address an issue with a client, the worse the consequences.
If you take responsibility for the situation early, though, you can stay in the driver’s seat. Your client knows that you have identified and are working on a solution. And when you take charge, even if it was not your fault, you earn your client’s respect.
9. Encourage Feedback (and Act on It)
To continue serving your clients well, you need to know what you’re doing right and what needs improvement. The best source for that information is the client.
Establish a regular feedback loop in which you ask clients to let you know what is working. This shows them that you are there to serve their needs, not just to sell products or build your client base.
For this to truly be effective, however, you also need to be willing to act on client feedback. When they see you implement one of their suggestions (or show that you are looking into it), you prove that you are listening and that you are flexible. This will strengthen their connection to you over time.
10. Show Gratitude for Your Clients
You can find, “We appreciate your business.” on just about any invoice template. If you want your clients to believe it, though, you should demonstrate your thankfulness.
This can be a small gesture like a handwritten thank you note or personalized gift. Or, it could mean creating a culture of gratitude, where you look for ways to give back to your clients. Perhaps you invite them to a regular lunch-and-learn session where you offer valuable information to help them succeed. (This is another great way to show that you are the expert and want to exceed expectations.)
While many businesses look for shortcuts to success, hoping to leap over their competition, those that survive in the long term have great relationships with their clients. To keep your calendar booked into the future, start working on a few of these areas today.