According to Business News Daily, a 5% boost in client retention increases a brand’s profits by anywhere from 25% to 95%, and repeat customers and clients are responsible for almost 65% of a company’s business. Another study reveals that retaining customers is seven times less costly than acquiring them.
Stats like these make the benefit of long-term business relationships abundantly clear. Jezel Elladora, Director of Client Experience at Cyberbacker, offers insight into how to develop and maintain relationships that stand the test of time.
The value of educating clients
“When you partner with clients, they should know exactly what they want out of the relationship and how they will measure its success,” says Elladora. “Get things off to the right start by clearly laying out the partnership’s goals, deliverables, timetables, funding, and governance in an official agreement.”
Clients will partner with a brand for the long haul if they know they can rely on that company. For this reason, it’s critical that brands begin the relationship with an honest and transparent assessment of where the project is heading.
“Telling clients what they want to hear or watering down your professional judgment about their projects might be appealing,” says Elladora. “After all, it helps you appear agreeable and avoids uncomfortable confrontation. However, such actions harm your reputation and reduce the likelihood of a long-term partnership. In the end, customers admire your confidence and dedication when you give them honest feedback.”
Rather than trying to wow clients by promising impossible outcomes, brands should offer clients reasonable goals, then do everything they can to surpass those goals. Impressing clients, in the beginning, is easy. Establishing oneself as a professional who sets reasonable expectations and consistently exceeds them leaves clients impressed at the end of each project. That is the foundation long-term successful partnerships are built upon.
Identify areas of confusion
Like any relationship, business partnerships are fluid and complicated. Over several months — and even years — they can experience a wide range of ups and downs.
When brands solicit feedback from clients, they learn what clients think about their services and how to make them better. This valuable information not only enables brands to improve services for the clients offering input, but also helps brands offer better services to future customers,
“Be adaptable and responsive to the evolving needs of your clients,” advises Elladora. “Regularly assess your collaboration and utilize the information and comments you receive to find blind spots, potential pitfalls, and opportunities for improvement. If your client’s demands or expectations change, be flexible enough to implement a new strategy or solution.”
Brands can ask for feedback through an online questionnaire or by emailing a link to a survey tool. A timely thank-you note in response shows gratitude for the information.
Leveraging technology and digital tools in client partnerships
Maintaining organization and a high level of polish during project delivery makes an impression on clients. When they receive professional project proposals, contracts, statements of work, client reports, and invoices, they feel confident they have put their trust in a reliable partner.
“By adopting the right technology and digital tools, you can improve your brand’s professionalism and capabilities,” says Elladora. “At the same time, you will increase transparency and keep tabs on your project’s progress. Think about your clients and what they want as you choose new tools. For example, with the right resources, you can provide clients with presentations that are more aesthetically engaging or deliver information to clients with technology that allows them to participate in interactive demonstrations or walkthroughs of your products.”
The impact of trust and transparency on client retention
Trust and cooperation can only be achieved through open lines of communication. The importance of prompt, effective communication cannot be overstated. When everyone focuses their attention on getting things done, communication can suffer, which is why it’s crucial to have open lines of communication throughout the project’s lifecycle.
Brands need to establish early on how they plan to collaborate with the client to create value statements, and how they will measure and convey project success in terms of these value statements. This communication should be open, frequent, and across several platforms, such as email, phone, in-person meetings, newsletters, and social media. An effective communication strategy outlines the goals, channels, recipients, and content of all communications.
“It’s vital that you keep in touch with clients to exchange information, recognize successes, discuss problems, and get input,” Elladora notes. “Proactive and honest communication is the strategy most critical in keeping a good relationship with long-term clients. Transparent communication requires you to keep your clients abreast of any developments, problems, or threats that could have an impact on the project or the relationship. The client should understand the rationale behind your actions and how they further their interests and goals. In a nutshell, proactive and clear communication demonstrates your honesty, dependability, and consideration for your client’s wants and needs.”
Talking is not the only part of communication, though. Listening attentively and showing empathy are also crucial in building happy long-term partnerships. Active listening necessitates that brands hear their clients out, ask follow-up questions to gain clarification, and express empathy for their experiences.
“When clients are talking with you, give them your undivided attention,” Elladora adds. “Make sure they know you fully understand their perspective and value their input. Remember, you demonstrate your interest in the client, their business, and their success by listening attentively and empathetically.”
Maintaining long-term business relationships is never done in a day. Brands start the partnership on the right foot with honest and reasonable expectations, grow the partnership by responding to feedback, demonstrate reliability with professional deliverables, and build trust through transparent communication.
These relationships require work, but their reward is well worth the effort.