We all aim to do a great job, make our clients happy, and keep them on our client roster for a long time. But it takes a little more to create exceptional client relationships. The relationships that become partnerships and last for the long-term, resulting in a steady stream of referrals and a genuine enjoyment on both sides.
It’s not just doing a good job, or even exceeding the client’s expectations. It’s about the entire experience. And providing an exceptional experience requires consistency.
Here are a few ways to consistently carry excellence through all stages of a relationship with a client to create a more memorable experience and make them more likely to come back and recommend you to others.
Prospect/New Client Stage
At this point, your hands-on knowledge and experience are relatively unproven. A client hires you based on a number of factors — portfolio, word of mouth, likability, perceived value — that are bolstered by the direct communication you have with the client.
During this communication-focused stage, the primary wow factor with a client is responsiveness. To demonstrate your excellence to the client, you should respond to all of their messages quickly and completely. To take it one step further, you may be able to anticipate and answer potential questions and go out of your way to give them exactly the information they want, even if they don’t ask for it directly.
This kind of communication early on in the process sets the stage for what the client can expect during the rest of the relationship.
Once you begin working together, solid communication and responsiveness are not only vital, but also expected. The client probably wouldn’t be working with you if you are difficult to communicate with and require tracking down and regular nagging to get things done.
To go beyond the standard, you want to make the entire process as easy as possible for the client. During project planning, take the lead by driving the project and making suggestions when appropriate. And as importantly, let the client take the lead and have a chance to contribute as well. A general open mindedness and “can-do” attitude, tempered with a dose of reality, can elevate a good experience to a wow experience.
After the Work Stage
This is where many potentially great client relationships drop. Just because the work is done and you’ve been paid in full, it may be tempting to move along to the next client, physically and mentally. But now is the time to make a statement about the value you provide.
Once the project is complete, give the client all of the files and other data for the project quickly. If there are more steps to the project that don’t involve you directly, outlining what comes next can be useful for clients as well.
When you hand everything off, to avoid a “this is the end of the road” feeling, tell the client that you will still be available if there are any questions or problems with the work you completed. This kind of reassurance can magnify the “team” dynamic of the relationship. Now may also be the perfect time to address other needs the client may have or begin to plan phase two of the project, avoiding a dead stop to the working relationship.
And finally, nothing may speak more to your desire to develop a long-term relationship than asking for feedback. Ask the client what it was like working with you, especially what you can do better. Then implement changes based on their feedback. This says loud and clear that you listen, are dedicated to making your relationship better, and want to continue to work with the client.
What do you do to go above and beyond your clients’ expectations?
Image credit: dleafy