In software development, as much as in other businesses, the relationship between the company and the client holds decisive importance. In addition to the endeavor to retain its initial spark, the relationship needs nurturing toward its evolution.
Creating strong relationships with our clients does not come naturally in all instances. However, striving for client retention comes with numerous benefits.
- Competitive advantages : they will choose you over other companies
- Business promotion : they will recommend you to other companies
- Client loyalty : they will stick with you for years to come
- Positive association : you will gain additional brand value through client association
From the beginning, it is crucial to encourage robust standards to ensure a successful collaborative trajectory. There are many tips that you can still apply to your already-built relations. We'll dive directly into the most valuable "C" of the 3 C's of developing outstanding client relationships.
During your lifetime, the top piece of advice you'll receive on relationships is regarding communication. All of us have heard the saying "communication is key." After all, it encapsulates the essence of building relationships because it allows us to express ourselves, share information, and connect with others.
By communicating, you will eliminate misunderstandings, cultivate trust, and quickly resolve arising issues.
"Communication – the human connection – is the key to personal and career success." - Paul J. Meyer
Relationship Initiation Tips
1.) Doing some research : It all begins with the first contact you'll have with the client. Do your research on the client's company beforehand and find answers to "7W" questions: what, when, where, who, whom, which, whose, why, and how. "What's their business?", "What's their longevity on the market?", "Who are their competitors?". Make sure you are communicating in their language.
Why: It will show your interest and it will significantly help you along the way. You will start on the right foot and make a remarkable first impression.
2.) Connection preferences : Ask them about their preferred way of communication. Do they respond better to written or verbal communication?
Why: You want to make their work as effortless as possible. They will appreciate you taking care of the details and not having additional changes imposed to their way of working. After a while, if it brings value, you can suggest other channels of communication.
3.) Using common tools : Do they use certain tools you could adapt to?
Why: If the tools they're already using can do the job, then you, as the professional, should adapt to their ways. It will be easier for you to adapt than to create an extra hassle for them. As previously stated, your goal is to make getting started trouble-free.
4.) Setting goals : Straight from the initiation phase of the collaboration, clarify the expectations, set timelines, and establish clear project success criteria. Write it all down before starting work, you should return to it later.
Why: You will ensure no disappointments are waiting to happen. From the project perspective, the awaited result will be clear, and you will increase the probability of delivering what it's expected when it's expected.
5.) Recurrent meetings : Set regular check-ins and update the client on progress, answer any inquiries, and remove flagged items. Ensure the attendance of all relevant responsible people, so they're also ready to solve some blockers and kept up to date with the advancement.
Why: It's best practice to uphold constant interaction and address issues as they arise. The client will be kept aware of the project status and what tasks require their attention or action.
6.) The to-do list : Work with your client in establishing a mutually agreed to-do list that you can use to check off your tasks.
Why: They have to contribute as much as you do to the project's success. To raise the efficiency of the project, you can help them organize their tasks.
Relationship Everlasting Tips
1.) Closely listening : Listening is a mighty tool. Hear the information they are communicating and prove you did so by bringing it up in future conversations, coming up with solutions, and having relevant attentive feedback.
Why : Firstly, it is our human need to feel heard. The client will know that you care and it will bring them peace of mind knowing that they don't have to tell you anything twice. Secondly, listening is power. When you listen, you gain information, and consequently, you will have the means to find more accurate solutions.
2.) Letting them be honest : Make them comfortable to share their ideas, concerns, and problems with you.
Why : You don't want them to hide things from you as much as you don't want to hide things from them. For instance, the sooner you learn about the problems, the sooner you can eliminate them.
3.) Quick reaction time : Ensure returning their messages promptly. Even if it is to let them know that you'll tend to their needs later, don't let them wait for an answer. Inform them when you will be out of reach, on days off, out of office breaks, and on holiday leave.
Why: There's nothing worse than having a crisis while the person that should help you is nowhere to be found. Moreover, it shows politeness to share that you will be off-duty. When sending an "I-got-it" reply, they'll know that the message reached you, so they can rest assured that you will indeed look into it later.
4.) Giving them time : Other times, they will be the ones to be out of reach, so give them time to respond. As your message might've gotten lost with the bunch after a while, you can send a kind reminder.
Why : As long as it is not the norm, it's perfectly understandable that hectic days happen. Being considerate is one way of improving the relationship.
5.) Managing feedback : Invite them to share their feedback and try to implement the applicable suggestions as soon as possible. Likewise, it is important to provide feedback in return.
Why : It is a great opportunity to learn from your mistakes and improve your processes. By offering feedback, you might get some things off your chest and make them aware of some obtainable improvements they might have missed.
6.) Yes for dialog : Monitor the conversation and make sure it is not a monologue.
Why : When you talk, you don't listen. When you don't listen, you don't learn. Give them time to express their thoughts and encourage them to communicate. If they're not an overly talkative person, you can help them pinpoint their needs by asking questions. At the same time, make sure you have your own allocated time to share your thoughts.
7.) Transparency is key : Be honest about your process of working.
Why : They must know your plan and the project status even if you have encountered problems or you don't have an immediate resolution. It's perfectly fine to admit your mistakes as long as you are rectifying them right away. If we're hiding mistakes, they will eventually come to the surface.
8.) Written communication : You should always double-check your grammar and spelling before sending out an email. Write as clearly and concisely as possible, and make sure to include a call to action.
Why : This one is pretty self-explanatory: for intelligibility purposes and for being taken seriously as a professional.
9.) Documenting it : Having documentation for future reference will save you. Any needs, decisions, milestones, or challenges on the project should be stored.
Why : In case we need to be reminded of something or we'd like to use it for reference on future projects. It also helps get newcomers up to speed with the project at hand.
10.) Being an angel : Never speak ill about your competitors. Let your expertise do the talking.
Why : You are too busy doing a great job. Wink.
You have to be an expert in what you do, even if you have lots left to learn. You were contracted as a professional in your field. Constantly proving that you are reliable will earn you respect and trust and show you are dedicated to your activity. Striving to prove your competence should be never-ending.
"If you want to be successful, don't seek success, seek competence, empowerment; do nothing short of the best that you can do."- Jaggi Vasudev
1.) Explaining yourself : Let the client know your way of working and help them understand your activities.
Why : It will help them learn how they can collaborate with you, and the areas where you can give a helping hand.
2.) Knowledge sharing : You can be a source of education for them. Try to find answers to their questions and introduce them to helpful tools and concepts.
Why : It will help to gain more knowledge, and they will respect you for it.
3.) Allowed to your opinion : Uphold your opinion and back it up with research.
Why : They will not always be right, and you, as a professional, should come up with the best solutions.
4.) Being prepared : Always be prepared with information, and share your insight and input.
Why : Ideally, you should be prepared to answer any question at any time. Getting caught off-guard is not comfortable, and it gives off a poor impression of lacking interest. Yet, if you don't have the answer, don't pretend you do.
5.) Meeting the needs : Most of the time, the clients are unaware of their needs, and they stick to communicating what they want instead.
Why : It is your role, as much as theirs, to identify their needs and propose fitted solutions.
6.) Holding them accountable : When they have to complete a task on their end, give them plenty of time and check on their progress. Let them be aware that this is a collaborative process.
Why : When they are not cooperating as expected, you have to make them aware of the consequences of their lack of involvement. You will avoid being blamed for things that are out of your control. They must take responsibility for contributing to the to-do list.
7.) Integrity : Most importantly, Always keep your promises and deliver what was agreed upon. Don't forget to underpromise and over-deliver, not the other way around.
Why : This is the top way to prove reliability.
8.) Quality : We all want to work with people who promote high standards. Assure that what you deliver is of the highest quality possible and you don't deliver a product that was not priorly internally reviewed.
Why : The quality of your organization is directly reflected in the quality of your delivered products.
9.) Consistency : Make sure that you are consistently delivering, whether we're talking about demos, research results, documentation, fixes, and improvements.
Why : Frequent deliverables will show the client that you are reliable and they get a confirmation that you are working on completing the project.
10.) Continuous learning : Learning never stops. Make sure you are up to date with the latest professional standards and you investigate the best solutions for your client.
Why : Mainly, in the scope of evolution. As a bonus, when you are knowledgeable and prepared, you will also emanate confidence.
11.) Lessons learned : After the project completion, take a step back to analyze what you could've done better and then find ways to improve your way of working.
Why : You can learn from different sources, external or internal. Either way, as long as you are not where you were yesterday, you are successful.
Interhuman connection helps us be happier, less stressed, and more engaged. By connecting with other people, we can improve our mental and physical well-being.
It also makes the client feel we are part of the same team. They will feel like they, as an individual, matter, and their satisfaction levels will grow exponentially.
"When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but with creatures of emotion."- Dale Carnegie
1.) Treating them right : Don't treat them like another piece of the puzzle, treat them like a person and acknowledge their problems and their joys. Despite displaying a workplace persona, every one of us is just a kid at the core.
Why : Isn't it what we all want? To be treated with sympathy? Each of us is dealing with personal problems that we might choose to share or not, which might affect our work. By having empathy and understanding that we are all human, we will be able to manifest more compassion in our work life.
2.) Personal connection : You must establish the extent of the personal connection you can appropriately build.
Why : Some of the clients will allow you to get to know them on a personal level, and others will keep it all business. To avoid intrusiveness, calibrate your interaction based on their character and status.
3.) Personal level : Ask them about their hobbies, favorite sports, kids, and pets and remember the small details they have shared about themselves. Wish them happy holidays and remember their birthdays. Have celebratory moments in your conversations when the occasion requires.
Why : This way, they will feel listened to and cared for.
4.) Positive attitude : Enthusiasm is contagious, and it will help both your conversation and your overall relationship.
Why : The truth is that we like to see happy, energetic, and up-for-challenge people.
5.) Rewarding them : Show appreciation and reward their loyalty through discounts and gifts.
Why : Who doesn't like a little treat from now and then?
6.) Being authentic. Be yourself, and do not put a front that is too far away from your personality.
Why : They can sense it right away when you're not yourself and it will immediately put a wall between you and the client.
In the end, it all comes down to embracing being empathetic, reliable, and a good communicator. If you have all three, you will ensure excellent relationships, not only in a professional environment but in your personal life, as well.
Remember LAT : Listen, act, talk.