Many business owners and managers repeat that “we have to have strong relationships with our clients” to maintain a successful business. While this is true, we seldom track our progress in maintaining these relationships nor invest in the proper tools to ensure our team is successful in maintaining strong relationships with their clients. The number of clients a manager is responsible for can be over 100. You must focus on the right clients and give your team tools to accelerate the number of clients they can successfully communicate with in a given work week.
Here are 7 tips for improving communications with clients and maintaining strong relationships.
- Know where to focus.
Using the pareto principle (also known as the 80/20 rule) to review your clients, you’ll quickly identify that a large portion of your business is generated by a small number of clients. These are the Vital Few. Go ahead and look. It’s larger than you think. Is your team focused on the Vital Few? Squeaky wheels who ring the phone often will certainly take focus away from the Vital Few. Managers also want to feel good about the job they are doing. They will tend to visit client locations where they are doing a good job and have a great relationship more often so that they can leave feeling good about their efforts. Unfortunately, there remain clients who are among the Vital Few, who don’t ring the phone to complain and slip under the radar. Not only are they great clients and low maintenance, they probably have opportunities for you to increase your business with them. Give your team a list of the Vital Few in your company and identify them everywhere in your systems so the whole company gives them the VIP service they deserve.
- Accelerate Communication
Travelling to a client location and meetings, while sometimes necessary, are very expensive from a cost, time, and resource perspective. While there is great value to having face time with your clients, there are two fantastic ways to exponentially increase the number of clients your team communicates with each week. Phone calls and e-mail. It is seldom that we sit down and make phone calls for an hour. By having a conversation that is less than 10 minutes, you can solicit feedback on your service from your client, give the status of any open items and introduce new and exciting offerings from your company. Use e-mail to schedule these quick calls with your clients and follow up on the results of the calls.
- Set Triggers for Communication
We know that there are certain events that happen in your business that will rub your client the wrong way when they experience them. Although you have great procedures and computer systems in place to identify and react to these “defects” in your business, we often leave out the communication piece that closes the loop. For example:
- Missed delivery, send an e-mail that you identified it and rescheduled it for first thing tomorrow.
- Service calls open 24 hours+, send a status to the client regarding a part, etc with an expected resolution date.
Setting triggers that your team must communicate to a client proactively will achieve improvements in your operations.
- Your client will receive proactive communication and know that your team is effectively managing their business.
- By announcing their intentions to the client, the team will be held accountable to solving the issue in a timely manner.
- Your team will reduce the number of defects in the business so that they don’t have to communicate it to the client.
To identify the appropriate triggers for your business, do a root cause analysis on recent accounts you’ve lost that were not bids. You’ll quickly see certain triggers that were not responded to that if they had been, the business would still be yours.
- Improve your Company Branding
You and your team work hard to build your brand. You may have even invested in professional logos, marketing material, etc. Take advantage of branding to increase the positive touches your clients have with your company.
Your logo is the identification of your brand. Your company should have one primary logo and it needs to be everywhere.
- Uniforms – All field staff must be wearing your logo. Not only does it identify them to your company, it provides the opportunity for your client to have a positive touch with your brand. Train your field staff like they do at UPS & FedEx. Be courteous and move fast. Your client doesn’t need to develop a relationship with your field staff, just a have a positive experience with everyone wearing your brand.
- E-Mail Signature – Set up a standard e-mail signature with your company logo and contact information and distribute it to everyone who uses company e-mail. Each time the client receives an e-mail by someone from your team, they will have a positive touch with your brand when the logo is in the e-mail signature.
- Update your Web Site & Internet listings
Its 2017. When was the last time your web site was updated? Any time someone wants to get in contact with your company, they pull out their smartphone and google/search your company name. Your information including your logo and website need to be correct in your google listing and web sites should be clean and mobile ready. If you have a Facebook business page and/or Twitter account, post on it! It’s free and a quick way to get your message out. Although anyone with a WordPress account can set up a web design shop, using a professional web design firm will ensure that your web site also meets the SEO criteria for speed, security, and image resolution.
- Send E-Mail Newsletters
You receive lots of e-mail daily with messages from companies you do business with from financial firms, local businesses, industry newsletters, etc. Professional e-mail campaigns are an effective and inexpensive way to continually communicate with your clients and create another positive touch for your brand. A monthly e-mail message can introduce new products and services, highlight an employee achievement at work, at home, or volunteering. In addition to the ease of setting up a campaign, the reporting features will tell you which clients are engaged with your message. When you see an e-mail unsuccessfully delivered, you know when to call and find out who your new contact is at an account. Mailchimp and Constant Contact are two programs that can be set up with little skill set and great success.
- Leverage Your Strengths
Your team works hard to serve your products to clients at a significant discount compared to standard retail prices and even more so factoring in commission and rebates paid back to clients. Do you promote these discounts to your clients? Brands like Target, “Expect More – Pay Less,” and Wal-Mart “Every Day Low Prices,” leverage discounts in their communications to the clients. Use your e-mail newsletter and communications with the clients to hammer home what a great deal the client receives from you. Discounts not your thing? Promote your key metrics in service levels like time to complete a service call, % of stock outs, etc. When the client is reminded of your strengths in subtle ways, when competition knocks on their door, they will have good reason in their subconscious thinking not to answer.
Implementing any number of these 7 tips for improving communications with your clients will improve client relations and contribute to a reduction in lost business. It will also produce more proactive communication within your organization, between managers and their employees, and team members across departments. Over communication solves a majority of issues that cause defects in our businesses, frustration from our clients and anxiety from our employees. Please comment below and let us know methods you’ve implemented to improve communication with your clients.