Clients stick with companies who value them—it’s just that simple. When you put in the time, energy, and investment to treat your clients as humans, not transactions, the payoff is worth it. Research from the IT firm Capgemini reveals that emotional connection is the highest predictor of customer retention. Moreover, 70 percent of emotionally connected customers will spend twice as much on a business they have a positive, trusted, loyal relationship with. So here are a few actionable steps to form that kind of relationship with your own clients.
Learn as Much About the Clients as Possible
To best serve your client’s needs, goals and expectations, you must understand who they are. This will take some in-depth research, but don’t gloss over it—the more you know about each client, the more intentional, authentic, and relational your business will come across. It’s meaningful to the client and helps establish trust right from the onset. When conducting this client research, pay attention to both hard (technical) and soft (personal) information, so you can create a thorough, fleshed-out client profile:
Hard client information:
- Short- and long-term objectives
- Main business competitors
- Current marketing budget
- Products or services offered
- The target audience they want to reach
- Platforms and software they use
- Strategies that have or haven’t worked
- Size of business and plans to scale
Soft client information:
- Definition of a successful outcome
- Core business values and mission
- Main challenges or pain points
- Brand personality and identity
- Differing traits from their competitors
- Client interests and preferences
- Expectations they might have for you
Listen to Feedback from Your Client Reviews
Online reviews are extremely important for both acquiring and retaining clients. A recent survey from BrightLocal found that 77 percent of consumers frequently read reviews when searching for a business. Moreover, 67 percent are willing to post a review for a positive client experience, and 89 percent are likely to use a business that responds to all its reviews. When you listen to these reviews, answer directly and thoughtfully, then implement the feedback you receive, it will strengthen your communication and client relationships. Follow these best practices for how to leverage and interact with online client reviews:
- Respond to both the positives and negatives. If a satisfied client gives you a positive review, thank them for the recognition and express that you look forward to continuing your work together in the future. If a concerned or unsatisfied client leaves a negative review, don’t ignore it. Take the time to apologize for their subpar experience, assure them you value the relationship, and ask what you can do to resolve their concerns. Personal customer service earns a client’s trust.
- Communicate with empathy and proactivity. Acknowledge the client’s emotions in your response to their review (“I can hear your frustration, and I want to make this right for you.”). Answer their questions honestly (“We are beta-testing a new platform, so I apologize for the issues we ran into with your campaign.”). Then offer a solution to meet their needs (“I have an idea to rectify this situation. Are you open to further discussion?). Being empathetic and proactive—not defensive and reactive—will make the reviewer feel validated, ultimately keeping the relationship intact.
- Leverage feedback to improve your business. When a client leaves a review with useful, actionable feedback, integrate it into your business model. When a client leaves a review with complaints, don’t be afraid to ask if they have specific feedback on how to solve this issue moving forward. Client input is a valuable resource—your success hinges on their satisfaction. So listen to their feedback, then use it to achieve the type of business those clients want to continue investing in.
Interact with Each Client as an Equal Partner
The client sought you out for a specific reason—they trust the expertise and successful track record you bring to the table. But keep in mind their voice matters in this relationship too. Chances are, you know more than they do about the service you’re performing, but don’t edge them out of the equation. Treat the client as your partner and nurture a dynamic that feels collaborative rather than distant or hierarchical. This will reduce miscommunication as well. Here are some ways to build a strong partnership:
- Always be honest and transparent. Solid business relationships are built on credible information and forthright communication, so don’t skirt the truth. Create space for those difficult conversations. Offer pushback when you disagree with a client, and encourage them to do the same. Inform them of any new updates or pivots that might arise, and if possible, give them access to certain metrics or platforms you use.
- Discuss your parameters upfront. Communication in a healthy relationship should be consistent, but you also need to have boundaries. Let the client know when you are reachable and when you’ll be unavailable. Clarify expectations on both ends to maximize accountability. Then create a schedule for meetings to hash out new ideas, questions, or concerns, review progress on deliverables, and establish the next steps.
- Balance structure with flexibility. Agree on a plan with clear performance outcomes, communication touchpoints, and project deadlines, but leave room for potential shifts to occur along the way. If a client has some input that changes the scope or direction of the project, roll with it. If a new creative angle comes out of a brainstorming session, explore it. The structure is necessary, but too much of it can feel like rigidity.
Improve Your Client Relationships for Optimal Business Outcomes
Strong client relationships are built on honest communication, personalized service, emotional connection, authentic trust, reliable expectations, and an understanding of who each client is. When you work to nurture these traits and cultivate relationships, your entire business will grow. Clients want to partner with agencies that not only deliver optimal results but treat them as humans first. Focus on the relationship, and