In any job or opportunity that requires you to take on clients, your client management skills can make or break your success. If you’re a marketing consultant and your clients are upset with your inability to prove your results, they’re going to leave. If you’re a real estate agent and your clients are unhappy with your communication, it doesn’t matter how much experience you have — they’re not going to recommend you to friends or colleagues.
And if you’re a small business owner who doesn’t understand your clients’ priorities, you may never be able to retain them.
Fortunately, there are some steps that can make anyone — or any business — better at client management.
Easy Tips for Better Client Management
These strategies are simple to incorporate, but they can result in a major improvement in your client satisfaction and retention:
Start warm and personal.
No matter how professional you want to be, or how businesslike and results-driven the relationship is, every client relationship begins and ends with a personal connection. If you personally connect with your client in some way, he’ll be far more understanding of your mistakes, far more impressed with your results, and far less likely to leave. Begin the onboarding process with every client as warmly and personally as possible. Meet your clients face to face, and get to know them. Make them feel comfortable and welcomed by your business.
Understand the client’s goals and needs.
For the most part, this relationship is about the client, so your focus should be on the client’s goals and needs. For example, if you’re a marketing agency, you can assume any client that works with you will want to see marketing results. But what do they view as more important: generating more brand visibility or securing more conversions? Would they rather see a higher conversion rate or more inbound traffic? The better you know the client’s goals and priorities, the better you can serve them.
Try to maintain one point of contact.
Clients can get confused and frustrated when they’re stuck managing connections with multiple different specialists within your organization. Even if it’s slightly more efficient on your end to have them directly email specific members of your team, it’s better for the continuity of the relationship if they have one point of contact. Designate an account manager or specialist to work with each of your clients, and build your relationship around that person.
Touch base regularly and consistently.
At the beginning of your client relationship, set expectations for communication. How often will you meet? What’s the purpose of these meetings? How will you gauge results and analyze pain points? Depending on the nature of your work and the type of client you have, you may need to meet more or less frequently, but consistency is always key. If you’re going to meet weekly, make sure to meet every week.
Transparency is increasingly important in an era when information is readily available to all parties — and your client has his choice of dozens of competitors. Be open and honest about all your work, and don’t hide anything. If the client asks you a difficult question, try your best to answer it. Be thorough when explaining your process, and don’t be afraid to disclose both your strengths and your weaknesses. The more honest you are and the longer the relationship lasts, the more your client will trust you — and the more loyal he’ll become.
Acknowledge and make up for mistakes.
No matter how great your services are or how talented your employees are, you’re eventually going to make a mistake. When you do, it’s important to acknowledge that mistake with your client and try to make it up to him. Hiding or refusing to admit to the mistake will be seen as untrustworthy or unscrupulous; admitting the error will make you seem more honest, as well as more human.
Ask clients how you can do better.
Finally, go out of your way to ask clients how you could do better in the future. If a client ever leaves, ask him to take a brief exit survey so you can learn why . If you have a successful client relationship, ask the client why he’s stuck with you all this time. Use these pieces of feedback to improve.
Optimizing for Retention
Many new business owners are excited to acquire new clients as quickly as possible, but client acquisition pales in importance compared to client retention.
Client retention is far more cost-effective, and it’s better for your reputation in the long run. Plus, if your clients are happy, you can automatically get better client acquisition due to referrals, recommendations, and testimonials. When torn between the two, always lean toward existing client satisfaction and retention.