Since launching American Nanny Company, Inc. in 1984, I have learned just how important meaningful and ongoing relationships with clients can be for the success of a small business. As an “accidental entrepreneur” and a professor of sociology I knew very little about relationship building with clients. The generosity of a few valued mentors and the passion I felt in my belly was the catalyst for scaling a steep learning curve.
The Top Ten….
1. The twenty-four hour rule: Return all calls within twenty-four hours. A cardinal rule that has been kept through all the years.
2. Find common ground with all clients. It is much easier to work with clients that you can relate to. Finding common experiences, connections, histories or shared values is one way of making and maintaining a bond.
3. Listen, Listen And Listen Some More. Too many professionals are in love with their own voice. Learn that sometimes less is best. A rapt listener can learn so much more about their client than an obsessive talker. Answer all questions with patience and energy. while assuring your client that you have “all of the time” in the world for them. When a client demurs, “I am taking so much of your time” the only response is “you are not and you are my business.”
4.Manage client expectations honestly. Inspire trust, allegiance and confidence by telling it like it is as you give feedback in an ongoing and genuine fashion.Giving false hope can lead to disaster. I can’t keep count of how many times a client has thanked me for my honest (albeit challenging) feedback.
5. Never walk away from conflict: Work towards resolution.
6. Discourage a misalliance with a client or situation that you know is doomed to fail; always better to “pay now than later.”
7. Consistently exceed expectations by offering superb client service and doing what you say you will do. It is amazing how many of your competitors do not.
8. When turning away a potential client be as kind, courteous and helpful as you can be. Good karma is always powerful.
9. Maintain ongoing relationships and stay in touch with clients once you have placed with them. Your client base is your biggest source of repeat business and referrals.
10. Be an ongoing and reliable source of cutting edge knowledge in your industry. Staying updated is one way of maintaining exposure through a large and loyal client base