Now that you’ve gotten your client information system together, you might realize that there are significant gaps in how well you know your clients. The bad news is that those gaps indicate the lack of a genuine relationship, but the good news is that they’re easy to fix. In fact, it’s the same way of fixing most relationships: communicating.
Talk to your clients. Not just as clients or business partners, but as people. Ask them how their weekend went in a tone that invites an answer (instead of a tone that indicates you’re asking the question only as a formality). If their answer and tone gives you the impression that they want to chat more, go for it. If you get the impression that they want to keep it strictly business or are in a hurry, shift gears into business mode. Then, the next time you see them, ask another getting-to-know-you-type question.
Of course, don’t go into journalist mode when you’re trying to learn about your clients, either. If you’d like to know more about their work schedule, instead of saying, “So, what hours do you work?” (subtle!), try, “I always see the same two cars in the parking lot when I drive past here on my way to work at 7:15. One of those isn’t yours, is it?” Or comment about how bad traffic gets at certain hours and see if they agree.
Communication doesn’t just stop at getting to know a client. Be sure to keep them updated and solicit their feedback regularly. Obviously, check in with them the first day you send a new worker to an assignment and be sure to let them know that you want them to be completely satisfied with the worker.
Even when they’re not working with you, check in with them from time to time. For instance, in early April and late October, visit your hospitality clients to remind them that banquet season is coming up and that they can get first dibs on your best servers if they reserve with you now. (But first ask how they’re doing, if there’s any news on the projects they were working on the last time you saw them, etc.)
If you view your clients as just a potential source of income, sooner or later they’ll notice, and unless your company is giving them flawless people at the lowest possible price, they’ll probably start to wonder if they might not get better service somewhere else. Just as you want to be viewed as a person, not “another sales caller,” they want to be viewed as people too.
By building stronger relationships with clients, you’re building a stronger business for yourself. And, hopefully, getting to know some really cool people too.
Written by: Catherine Cantieri