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Monday, May 29, 2017

How to Build the Best Relationships with Your Clients

No matter what line of work you’re in, you do your work for someone. Usually, that someone is a customer or a client. And in almost every career, that customer or client has the ability to fire you, walk away, or warn others away from your services. That makes client relationships nearly as important as the job you actually do. A miscommunication or customer service mistake can translate to a poor review even if you do the actual work perfectly, so – despite all those cranky savants in the movies – you can’t be the most successful at something if you aren’t easy to for clients to approach and work with.

Delivering a great client experience means doing good work, of course, but that’s not all it means. There are smart strategies you can use to encourage clients to view your relationship in a healthy way.

Substance over style

So how do you build the best relationships with your clients? You do everything you know you should: respond quickly to queries, be polite, etc. Let’s get this out of the way, first: there’s no substitute for good work. Customer service is key. So is quality in your products – whether they be cosmetics or children’s toys – and services, whether you’re offering legal representation or a good massage.

But that’s not the whole equation: you also have to encourage your clients to see your business relationship as the success that it is, and that’s as much about branding and positioning as it is about service with a smile.

Tailored solutions

Positioning is, in some ways, an extension of the “substance” argument. No matter how good you are at something, you need customers to want it. You can’t hope for customers to tailor themselves around you, so show them instead that you’ve tailored your services to them. When you see a law office advertised in Spanish, you’re seeing positioning: an organization is telling clients that it offers not just a certain type of service, but a certain type of service designed specifically for them.

Start before you meet them

There’s no substitute for great service, but there are supplements to it. Walk into a run-down business and you may be pleasantly surprised by great service, but you won’t necessarily walk away with a purely positive memory of the experience. Great client relationships start with expectations and presentation.

That means smart advertising and branding. If you have a portfolio – as writers, photographers, designers, and many other professionals should – display it through a quality service or on your own website in a way that encourages customers to go in expecting professionalism and courtesy. Design your company’s website to suit the mood you want your customers to expect or seek out: professionalism for a law office, fun for a party planning service, relaxation for a spa.

The power of peers

Imagine this: a customer has a great experience at a shop and logs on to record that experience on Yelp. But on Yelp, they find nothing but terrible reviews. Are they sure they even went to the same shop? Is it worth voicing an opinion that is so clearly in the minority? Pretty soon, that happy customer decides making a Yelp account to help this failing business isn’t worth it.

This absolutely happens, just as it happens when people discuss movies or politicians: if there’s only one person in the conversation with a certain view, it gets drowned out. Make this work to your advantage by showing your customers positive reviews of your business. Include testimonials on your website and in brochures. Go to any handyman or plumber’s website and you’ll see it: links to Angie’s List and to positive media coverage. Lawyers can do the same with client testimonials. Restaurants can link to Yelp reviews. When you share positive reviews in your marketing materials, you’ll get clients who are mentally prepared to be impressed with your service. That kind of mental edge is no substitute for great service, but it is one of the strategies smart businesses use to give themselves every chance to impress their clients.

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