Despite all the new flashy gadgets and tools that are used in business today, personal relationships remain the backbone of any successful organisation. This is certainly true of businesses that are hoping to create a long-term, fruitful client relationship, where a mutually beneficial partnership must be worked at over time.
If you think that simply by signing a contract with your client everything is going to go completely smoothly, then you could be in for a shock. In order to get the most out of your relationship then the secret is simply to work together as closely and as often as possible. Here’s how you can achieve this.
The importance of face-to-face interactions
It’s true that you can email, or phone, or WhatsApp, of use a whole swathe of collaboration tools to stay in touch with your client, but sometimes all of these options are less effective than a good old-fashioned face-to-face chat. When you meet someone in person you get to see a little bit of their personality and you can appreciate their tone and body language to reduce the likelihood of misunderstanding.
In the early days of a B2B relationship, face-to-face meetings are particularly important. They enable teams from both companies to sit around a table and thrash out exactly what is expected of the partnership on both sides. Further down the line, when the two companies have a bit more familiarity with one another, face-to-face meetings can gradually be reduced, but don’t eliminate them altogether if you want the relationship to remain strong.
Of course, sometimes face-to-face interactions may not always be possible – or certainly not as often as you may like them to. If this is the case, using some form of video conferencing software could be the next best thing. There are already a wide range of digital tools available today and the future promises virtual reality headsets that could make it appear as though you’re standing in front of your client while actually sat on your own in your office.
Get it in writing
During the early stages of the relationship between business and client, the two companies should come up with a specification that details exactly what work is being provided. Include deadlines and contact details for the members of staff that are leading the various projects. This will help to eliminate any uncertainty right from the start. When everyone knows exactly what is expected of them, you’re business is less likely to end up disappointed with your client’s performance.
Choose your client carefully
Another way to ensure that you have a healthy client relationship is to by making sure that you don’t pick a dud. Some agencies will be better than others and some will certainly put more emphasis on customer support. Take a look at a potential client’s website and previous work and see what sort of company they are. Will they simply fulfil their contractual obligations, or are they willing to go above and beyond for your business?
Web design agency CandidSky, for example, offers day to day support for their customers so if they need additional help with SEO, sales conversion or web development it can be provided as soon as it’s needed, not sometime next week.
Similarly, the rise of cloud computing is also placing greater emphasises on the importance of ongoing support. Many businesses now utilise managed service providers to deliver their IT solutions, which means that a close relationship is essential. If you and your cloud provider are not in constant contact then problems are allowed to fester and the chance of your IT systems suffering downtime increases. When clients are willing to offer fast and reliable support to their businesses then the relationship is a robust one and any issues can be worked through collaboratively
Honesty is the best policy in all relationship and this is certainly true in the world of business. If you want your client to deliver a project in a certain way then make sure you tell them so, and equally, if a client simply can’t meet your business expectations they should be upfront about it. If both parties are honest with each other from day one, then you’ll avoid that dreaded business maxim of “over-promising, but under-delivering.”
Take an interest
If your business is based in manufacturing, say, and the client you are working with is installing an automated HR system into your company, you might assume that there is little point in getting to know more about your client’s operations. However, by taking a close interest in your client’s work and industry you may create a more fruitful partnership.
In the aforementioned example, you might have only requested the installation of a VoIP telephone system, but by doing some additional research you can keep up-to-date with the latest developments in the telecoms industry, many of which may be relevant to your business. By engaging with your client you may discover that you could steal a march on your competitors by also introducing Unified Communications or other advanced telephony features. Taking an interest in your client’s work could ultimately benefit both parties.
Share, share, share
If you have trust in your client, then make sure you share some of your company’s resources with them. You may have industry contacts, for example, that could help them generate more business, and they may know of additional partners that could take your business to the next level.
What’s more, if you have the kind of relationship where client staff will be working on your business premises, you must trust them to access your computer networks and files. Of course, they only need to see the resources that are relevant to them, but if you are worried about whether they are going to steal vital company data then your relationship is perhaps not as strong as you thought it was.
Your partnership may begin as soon as sign a contract with your client, but if it is going to be a success you will need to work at it constantly, because a healthy client relationship is about more than just a piece of paper.
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