A few months ago, a client of ours told me that we have helped them work through several issues and that he really appreciated the relationship with our firm. He added that he wanted to help us grow and offered suggestions and some fantastic referrals. He is more to us than just a client…he is one of our Champions! He is someone we can go to for help and honest feedback. He will talk about us with colleagues and peers and will recommend our services. We strive to have every client as a Champion. This can only be done by first building a great relationship. How is your firm at "selling” or developing relationships with your clients? We have worked hard as a company to develop strong relationships with our clients by using some simple strategies.Build client relationships into the firm’s strategic plan.
We have 6 core values that we are building our business around. Client relationships are listed as our #1 core value. When we determine strategic objectives and plans, we consider how each will affect our ongoing relationships with our clients. By making client relationships a core value, you can communicate to the entire firm that the relationship with your clients comes first and every decision needs to take that into account. Building this into your strategic plan will make buy-in much easier than just saying that relationships are important.
Ask for honest feedback from clients in all services and engagements.
To build long-term relationships, firms must solicit honest feedback from clients. A thank-you and a check are not enough. Good clients will be happy to give feedback, good or bad. Does your firm have a process in place to follow-up with clients after specific engagements? We recommend that another person in the firm do the follow-up call after the job is complete. This will make it easier for clients to open up if there were issues. Probe with questions that will draw out detailed responses and then listen. Phrase your questions with:
- How do you feel about…
- Would you elaborate on…
- I sense frustration, can you give me an example…
All progress starts with the truth, so make sure that you are getting the feedback you need from you clients. They will appreciate the effort and good clients will be glad to help.
Understand why clients leave.
One great but sometimes painful way to help with client relationships is to understand why some clients leave. Every firm loses clients, but do they have a firm grasp on why and how it could have been prevented? Firms must take the time to ask the same type of probing questions when clients leave. Take the reasons for leaving and decide if they are things that you can work on or not. Use a client’s reason for leaving as a way to positively influence how you will serve the rest of your clients. Hopefully, in the future you will be able to address concerns before the next great client leaves because you have done the research!
Train and communicate relationships with your team.
Training your team on the importance of relationships is vital to the firm’s success. Each member of your team must understand the expectations of building relationships with each and every client. Take the time to train your team not on just giving great client service, but developing Champions. Establish mentors that are great at client service and seem to have a natural ability to build relationships. This will help other team members learn how your firm wants to be represented from the people already leading the way. Building client relationships should also be part of every team member’s growth plan.
Every firm will tell you that they value client relationships; just look at their websites. But how many firms actually have plans in place to accomplish true relationships? How do you want your clients to feel about your firm? Build client relationships into your firm’s strategic plan; ask for honest feedback; work on getting your entire team on the same page and you will find even greater rewards than just revenue.