3 Key Strategies for Building Client Relationships

by Rachel Hartman on December 13, 2011
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It’s always great to hear from satisfied customers, but when someone isn’t happy with your product or service, the news can be difficult to bear. Yet listening to complaints and making a solid effort to address them goes right to your bottom line, says Meghan Ely, president of OFD Consulting in Richmond, Va. “It’s much easier to keep clients than to find new ones,” notes Ely, who runs her wedding marketing and public relations firm mostly on referrals (and nearly no advertising).

Ely recommends three key strategies for finding out what is and isn’t pleasing your clients — and building lasting relationships with them.

  1. Make the investment. If your client list is relatively short and local, gauging customer satisfaction may be as simple as spending $4 for two cups of coffee. “Check in with everyone,” Ely suggests. “It’s one thing to say quickly that ‘everything’s fine’ in an email, but face-to-face [meetings] can bring out much more.” You may find that your customers are satisfied overall but that several people would like faster responses when they send you an email. Perhaps you can make a few changes to get back to them quickly — and increase their satisfaction levels.
  2. Ask for specific feedback, then listen to it. Use a free tool to create and disseminate surveys. Ely likes Survey Monkey: “I use this program exclusively for surveying my wedding marketing workshop attendees twice a year.” After sending out a survey, be prepared to hear some positive — and negative — responses. Celebrate the positive, and don’t panic about the negative: “If you have 30 clients and 29 are pleased with your services, it’s only one unhappy client,” Ely points out. If several, or the majority, of your clients point to an area where you could improve, consider making a change. For example, if clients love your service but would like more payment options, it may be time for you to establish new means of accepting money.
  3. Follow up. Once you’ve made adjustments to address clients’ feedback, follow up with the same people in three to six months, Ely advises. Ask what they think or how they feel now — and whether they’ve noticed an improvement. Chances are, they will not only be happier, but also report telling their friends and colleagues to check out your business.

Rachel Hartman is a writer who frequently covers topics related to small businesses. Her work has appeared in The Costco Connection, Wells Fargo Conversations, Pizza Today, Bankrate.com, InsuranceQuotes.com, CreditCardGuide.com, and many other outlets.

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