One of the absolute first things that I learned in building long term customer relationships is that keeping existing clients is far easier and more beneficial then having to find new ones. However, here comes the tricky part. Keeping them and keeping them happy is not always as easy as we would like for it to be. One of the key factors in keeping clients is to have a planned approach to provide excellent customer service, consistent communication, clear and concise goals that are addressed and thoughtfulness, showing them that you appreciate there business. Gaining new clients is exciting! This usually means more money, opportunity and challenge; however forgetting about your exiting clients can be detrimental and remembering them is just as important if not more important in cultivating a long term relationship for years to come. Loyalty definitely has a place in this world!
Making wins is always exciting,having won a new client, which took hard work and determination, you now need to ensure they are hooked and keep coming back. You must ensure you make an impact right from the beginning and just because you've been awarded the work doesn't mean that it's time to relax.
I've found the easiest way to ensure you provide consistent and quality service from the start is by developing a checklist. This helps me quickly establish a workable partnership with new clients that covers all the items I need for my new business relationship.
Here is an adaptation of the checklist I use in my marketing communications consultancy, Verb. Using this checklist with every new client ensures I can get on and do the work my client is paying me to do. You can adopt this process to your business whether you are a one-person-band or in a team environment. By putting the tasks in your Outlook task list you can ensure each of the activities are completed.
â€¢ Establish an agreed scope of works (including budget and time frames) with the client in order to start work.
â€¢ Provide the client with an outline that clearly states any appropriate administration processes., such as billing or retainers.
â€¢ Enter client contact details into Outlook or a database (eg. key contacts, numbers, e-mail, birthday etc.*), This may be already done in the prospecting process
â€¢ Enter your clients details, including their budget and parameters into your Customer Relationship Management(CRM) system
â€¢ Identify the members of the team, structure of service service and let your client know who may be contacting them during the project. Heck, it wouldn't hurt to put them in an organizational chart or a short welcome power point presentation if you really wanted to make in impact.
â€¢ Staying Touch is key! Set up a progress to track work using Project, PowerPoint or Excel.
â€¢ Put key dates and reminders such as deadlines into Outlook etc.
â€¢ Contact the client via phone and set up face-to-face meetings as appropriate (ie. daily or weekly). This will reap excellent rewards. Do not think that email is the same thing is talking to someone, its NOT!
â€¢ Within the first two weeks, provide the client with a value added opportunity, like some viral ideas, something to get them excited; business contacts are always great, a media opportunity is huge or anything extra outside the scope of the project. This shows that you care and it's not just about the win.
â€¢ Identify key areas for growth for the client and appropriate time frames; weekly, monthly, quarterly. keep them accountable too. Thats part of your job.
I get really excited about taking on new projects and It's very easy to be full of ideas when you first start working with a client, but maintaining this enthusiasm and complementing it with your growing knowledge of their business is the key to maintaining a strong relationship. You have to listen first and then discuss the pros and cons of their ideas and yours and come up with a solution.
How, you ask?
Getting to understand your customer personally is an extremely important aspect of building your relationship. One of the key areas is understanding their career motivations, which can have an enormous impact on ensuring you are meeting the client's wants as well as needs. I love to share ideas and could talk for hours with a customer about all the great creative things that we could do, however, While you might have the perfect solution to help your client achieve its objectives, that solution must also meet your contact's needs. The more you understand your client, the greater ability you will have to ensure you know what they want and are able to meet their expectations. Remember to LISTEN!
There are so many easy ways to stay connected. What are their special interests? You can use this info to plan activities or lunches to help you get to know your client better. When is there Birthday? Send them a card, they will appreciate it.
You can use this interest to set up a social activity to help you get to know your client better. For example your client might be a mad rugby fan and you can invite him/her to an upcoming game. know don't get frazzled, this doesn't mean you have to love all your clients and become their best friends. The main goal is to understand your client and their motivations, as well as you can, to ensure you can meet their expectations and retain their business.
What else can I do?
Deliver exceptional service
This I cant stress enough. You must provide the utmost respect, quality and focus towards detail and deadlines. The Double D's will get you in trouble every time nad not only will your client loose respect for you, they may even fire you or choose to do business somewhere else. That would not be good!
1. Double checking - This is something that I'm not very good at, and thats ok, their are people in your organization who are and if you ask nicely or bribe them with cookies, they will help you! It's essential to proof check all materials you produce for a client. It's easy to miss something yourself, so to make extra sure there are no errors, ask a colleague to check your work. If you don't have a colleague, use your network to set up a relationship with an appropriate business associate to help this process. Think of a vendor that you send business to or a tool on the web.
2. Create a Job list - Set up tasks for work due for clients in Outlook to ensure you meet your deadlines. Print out the calendar version in Outlook and pin it to your notice board to highlight key dates. use sticky notes in different colors or create reminders.
3. Use Templates - Set up templates for the work you have to frequently create like client reports, invoices, plans, media releases, faxes etc. Templates can be created in all Office applications or visit the Microsoft Office Template Gallery to explore the many pre-formatted templates available.
Gaining new Customers can bring huge profits, joy, excitement, abundance in knowledge, relationships and monetary means; it can also bring much loss if you forget to nurture the relationships that you already had. Find balance, even if it means you have to put in a bit more effort. It will pay off in the long run!