Taking Care of your Business Clients

By: Victoria K. Munro

Building long-term relationships with your current clients and turning them into loyal fans will yield big dividends. The rewards personally and professionally can be enormous. Growing a business in this way won't happen overnight, but following a plan to further develop client relationships will result in solid, meaningful friendships and steady business growth.

Research conducted by a numerous companies indicate that marketing to your existing clients will return at least five times more bottom-line profit than the same dollar spent on marketing to new clients.

Building Long-Term Client Relationships Works Well Because:
&bull You have already established a relationship with these clients. They know, like and trust you, and are ready to listen to you.
&bull They have experienced the quality of your service or products and the resulting benefits, and are ready to order again.
&bull Clients who know and trust you are much more likely to recommend you to others.

It's not only less expensive to market to current clients, it's easier and more fun -- you're working with friends you care about!

How to Develop Client Relationships that Let Them Know You Care
&bull Take the time and make the effort to get to know your clients:
&bull Understand and make note of their needs, concerns, challenges and roadblocks.Ask questions and listen to them.
&bull Find out about their passions, interests and hobbies.
&bull Discover how they enjoy their non-work time. Do they read? What type of books?
&bull Make note of dates important to them: birthdays, anniversaries, when and where you met them, and past business transactions with them.

Set up a customer relationship management system to easily keep track of this information. Keep your eyes and ears open for opportunities to help them and advance their interests whenever you can.

Pay Attention to Complaints and Use them to Your Advantage
View complaints as opportunities to position yourself as a candid, committed problem solver. Research shows that when customers have a problem with a company and have that problem spectacularly solved, they become more loyal to that company than customers who never experienced a problem. Time and energy spent solving a client's problem reaffirms and strengthens any trust that was broken.

Remember: Clients don't expect you to be perfect, they just expect you to care!

What Do Your Clients Really Think? Using Surveys
Discovering what your clients really think, and how they feel can be enlightening. It can reveal problems that you may not be aware of, and expose areas that you can improve.

If we talk to them directly, they may be afraid to hurt our feelings, may tell us only what they think we want to hear. A survey conducted by an independent third party, can produce more valuable results. Consider hiring someone else to conduct your survey. There are companies that specialize in designing and implementing customer surveys.

If you decide to conduct a client survey, consider the following:

&bull Establish clear goals for the survey -- know what you want to learn.
&bull Create a few clear, easily understood questions. Open-ended questions will result in more information.
&bull Consider offering an incentive or reward of some kind.
&bull Be courteous and considerate of your clients -- is this a convenient time for them?
&bull Thank them for their time.

Analyze and act on the information you receive. Thank your clients again for participating in the survey. Let them know how they have helped you and tell them of any changes you made or are planning to make as a result.

Communicate Frequently with Your Clients
Connect with them via mail, phone email and, when appropriate, in person. Thank them at every opportunity, give them referrals, acknowledge specials occasions, and look for ways to praise or give them feedback.

Keep in touch and let them know you care!

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