Managing Client Relationships
In a prior post, I talked about the importance of listening to the voice of your client to ensure you’re delivering services that are of value. But knowing what the client really wants and needs is just the beginning. From there, you need to continue managing the relationship; otherwise, you could end up undoing any progress made.
Anthropologist Robin Dunbar theorized that humans can comfortably maintain only 150 stable relationships. Consider that the average Facebook user has about 338 friends, and you can begin to understand why we might need some help organizing client relationships.
Invest time early on to save time later. Collect and store meaningful client information in a comprehensive CRM system. To be effective, the database must be current, accessible, and actionable. Whatever you do, make sure you have a “master” list. Contacts spread out amongst a handful of systems and files is the fastest way for you – and your clients – to become disorganized and frustrated.
Before the internet, if you wanted to speak to a client, you picked up the phone. Today, there are so many ways to communicate. Email, newsletters, phone calls, text, Google Hangout, Twitter, Slack. The list goes on, but not every method is right for every client.
Communication is about making it easy for clients to do business with you. Discuss with your clients the best way to stay in contact. Give them the opportunity to tell you the best way to reach them, and never assume that one method works for everyone.
Realistic promises and managed expectations
Managing expectations may be the single most important aspect of maintaining healthy client relationships. Reputations are everything, so be honest about what you can deliver. It’s okay to underpromise and over deliver. If you know it will be a stretch to complete a tax return by Friday, you’re better off promising the return by Monday and delivering it early rather than missing a deadline.
Also, be clear with the client about what you’ll need from them to get your job done. For instance, say you have audit fieldwork scheduled to begin on a Monday, but in the week leading up to your start date you still don’t have a trial balance or anything else necessary to prepare. Rather than keeping quiet, showing up on Monday and hoping for the best, discuss your needs list with the client and reschedule fieldwork if necessary.
Proactively managing clients builds stronger relationships and supports cross- and up-selling of services. But this can only happen if client relationships become an integral part of day-to-day operations. Take the time now to listen to learn about your clients’ needs and manage your communications with them – before your clients have time to think of looking elsewhere.
Boomer Consulting, Inc.