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Building great client relationships

The R words: relationships, rapport, retention

There is a saying that the best customers are the ones you already have. So once you've schmoozed and wooed someone into your client base, how do you go about keeping their business? Establishing trust and maintaining rapport in your business will be critical to building strong client relationships.

When you're getting to know your clients, it's important to identify common ground. The easiest way to start doing this is by listening. Learn about people by asking questions and from here you'll soon find that there's common ground you can talk about and use to build an element of rapport. You may have children of similar ages or like the same sorts of leisure activities. By asking questions, you'll make your client feel welcome. That, in turn, will create a sense of ease, perhaps encouraging them to open up to you more. You may also find it increases your own enjoyment in your work and this will shine through to customers and colleagues.

It's important to be open and honest. Let your clients get to know you, your hobbies, your pursuits and your interests. You may think people won't care. Perhaps you're right but, without realising it, your clients will gradually warm to you through this additional knowledge of you. This doesn't mean you should randomly start to waffle on about yourself over a business meeting. If you have a Facebook business page, a monthly newsletter or an About Us page on your website, be sure to include personal and fun facts about yourself and your team, adding a human element and a face to your business.

Always make yourself approachable. Be positive, down to earth and always portray a 'yes!' attitude. As soon as you start to put up any sort of wall, it's likely that clients will begin to back away. Make your clients feel important by personalising letters and emails and always using first names. Your interpersonal communication skills will improve as you focus in this way. Encourage your team to behave the same way in all aspects of client service to maintain this ethos across your company.

Ensure you respect your clients' time because it - like yours - is valuable. Be prompt when returning phone calls and emails and, most importantly, be on time if you're meeting in person. Unless your car breaks down or some other unforeseeable disaster strikes, there's no excuse for tardiness. If you say you're going to do something and you don't do it, it's not a good look. Even better, under promise and over deliver.

These are all things that help your business stand out, make people remember you. Try to make it a great experience for them to deal with you every time. It's one more reason for them to tell their friends and colleagues about you. In successful businesses, great service stands beside great products. Great client relationships help you take your business forward so you can build your success into the long term.

'We believe that customer service shouldn't be just a department; it should be the entire company.'


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