The success of any company depends largely on strong client relationships, whether you are a small business or a large corporation. Exceptional client service embodies a core value for your business and the code of ethics is vital in being successful. A positive attitude goes a long way to building client relations. Most people want to deal with confident people and a negative attitude is off-putting.
Forming solid business relationships take time. Be patient when building new relationships, remembering that gaining your client’s trust is paramount. Minimise personal chit-chat, as it can be seen as being unprofessional. Rather take the time to get to know your client and share a little bit of yourself. Very important to remember is that your work is key to building a long, productive relationship. At the end of the day, no amount of personal association can substitute for great work.
One of the first steps is to familiarize yourself with your client’s company as well as their industry. You don’t have to be an expert in that field, but this will help you speak to them with knowledge, understand what makes them tick and offer your services accordingly. Even if you have minimal knowledge about their products or services, it impresses that you took the time to find out and that you are serious about taking them on as a client.
Although it is not always possible to go the extra mile with all of your clients, as you grow your business and your client relationships there might be times that you’ll have to make a decision to customize a service uniquely to them. The advantages of offering customized solutions to your clients makes them feel secure and valued and it may also create new avenues of product offerings or services you had not previously considered for them.
When a prospective or existing client emails you, respond to the email as quickly as possible. Even if you do not have the solution they are looking for at that time, they will feel secure simply by you acknowledging their request and by communicating that you are working on it. This may seem like common sense, but with the hustle and bustle of a busy day in the office it is possible that it slips your mind and disappears into the sea of emails in your inbox.
This is easier said than done: “Treat every client as if they are your only client,” but the reality is that happy clients are more likely to make referrals and boost your business just by word of mouth. Whether the client is a small start-up business or a large corporation, it is vital to treat them equally as you never know who your clients may know or to whom they will refer you. Just as importantly, when they change jobs, either within their company or to a new one, you would want to be the supplier or partner they recommend to their new team. It is also important to remember that today’s small companies could be the big companies of tomorrow and to know that you were part of the transformation is a rewarding feeling.
In my opinion, when it comes to first-time client communication, the personal touch is always a better option. Phone your client, introducing yourself and your company and arrange a meeting to meet face to face to discuss their requirements. Email communication can often be misconstrued or ignored, which might end up costing you a great client. Once you have spoken to your client on the phone, then dropping them an email with a meeting proposal or a quotation will then be seen as prospective business and is taken seriously.
Meeting with your proposed client for the first time can be unnerving at times. Being punctual is always a great start. Be prepared with information you think might assist you and pay attention. A good solid handshake and eye contact is the beginning of a good working relationship. During a meeting with your client, take notes of their requests so that you can deliver precisely what they need, as well as a realistic timeline to meet those requirements, this way, you both know where you stand at all times.
And lastly, I constantly have to remind myself of this… “listen more and speak less”. That way you learn a lot more about your client and their business needs.