Client relations is a topic that tends to get lost in the midst of articles that describe ways to increase social media followers, signing a 6-figure project, how to grow your brand overnight and so on, but how do you build on those relationships that help establish the foundation for your brand?
Here are the 4 key points to help you navigate the waters with your customers/clients.
1. Exceptional Communication
Communication is key in all aspects of life, but most importantly when there are a lot of moving pieces and multiple parties involved in one single project. Setting proper expectations is crucial, this is how you avoid the little surprises that domino into one big ball of chaos and hair on fire situation. Expectation setting falls under transparency, you need to be as clear as possible with your team members and clients as to what is to be expected of parties involved in a project.
Another key component of communication, is listening. What is your client telling you and what does it mean? Reading between the lines is another important aspect of communication, one great way to get around this is asking “WHY?” and playing with the concept of curiosity. By simply asking this question, it will allow the client/customer to understand what is that they are looking for and it allows you to provide them with a solution that they didn’t realize they needed. It shows you care, a level of professionalism, and the client is comforted because they feel understood.
2. It’s All in the Details
Client relations is all about creating an experience and leaving people feeling good about your brand. Here at thunder::tech we enjoy sending out hand-written cards out to our clients, you probably have a decent stack of these from us at your desk. Additionally, we began showcasing some of our most recent projects on our social media channels #FeatureFridays, have you seen it yet? It’s pretty cool stuff.
At thunder::tech we believe in exceptional customer service, therefore milestones are celebrated. It can be as easy as a hand-written congratulations card, cookies, tickets to a game, or a fun bottle of champagne. Sometimes, projects can be long and grueling, so it is crucial to have fun along the way and be able to let loose every now and then.
In our field, we find that education is quite crucial. We’re constantly learning of new ways of doing things, staying up to date on the latest trends, and fun facts. Did you know that a sneeze travels out of your mouth at 100 mph?
The point is that as a brand, we encourage you to take action on education your clients on your brand and your field. Check out our Trends Reader and White Paper for examples of resourceful material. Additional ways of doing this is through blog posts, social media posts, e-mail blasts, videos, and so on!
This point should come as no surprise, but it is one that we forget the most, especially when things begin to go south. There are some situations that are unavoidable that are hard to swallow, however most hard and awkward situations can be avoided by the following.
Punctuality and preparedness. Nothing says professional like someone who is on time and prepared to take action. Be respectful and aware of other’s time, if you know you will be late to let them know, don’t just show up late! Having notes or an agenda prepared will allow for a call or meeting to flow and if you’re really prepared, then you will be able to give them a pre-emptive strike by answering all their questions before they ask.
Asking for feedback can be difficult sometimes, but this creates a different type of narrative between you and the client. They feel like they can be transparent in a respectful manner. A few of the ways of asking for feedback are:
Do you find XXX helpful? Is there anything that you feel we’re missing?
Are there any additional ways we can assist you?
Was there an expectation that was not fulfilled by us?
By asking for feedback it adds value and credibility to who you are and what the brand represents. An added bonus is that if the client provides great feedback you can take it back and continually improve your business, which will leave your client feeling satisfied.
4. Conflict Management
As previously mentioned there will be times where you can’t avoid a rough situation, things just happen sometimes and that’s OK, it’s all about the way you react and handle the situation.
It’s important to take a step back in the heat of the moment and begin to ask some of the feedback questions to guide you in order to get a clear understanding of what is happening. Share the matter of the conflict with someone who is completely unbiased and they may be able to provide a solution. Understand the facts and pin-point the exact time and place where things began to go south.
One strategy that has stuck with me during a particular tough situation is the H.E.A.T. model.
Hear them out
Again, this is one of those models that is very simple to follow and allows you to be a clear-minded space. It’s a very straight forward approach, but highly effective. Hearing the customer/client out and listening to what they have to say will allow you to understand where their frustration stems from, which leads into being able to empathize with them, simply put yourself in their shoes and ask yourself what you would like to hear in their situation. Apologize, yes, even if the situation was not caused by you, but the last thing a customer wants to hear is a poor excuse. Finally, take action! Be prepared to follow up after your apology with a plan of action on how to attempt to fix the problem and check in, which leads us back to our first point. Communication.
To conclude, we’re all working towards a goal and there is no better way to do it than by maintaining great relationships with those around you. Go above and beyond when possible, be open to communication, explore curiosity, educate, seek feedback, be respectful, and above all else, be yourself and do it with a bright smile.
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