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Every agency, business or organization of any kind should be looking for ways to improve client relations. Relationships rarely come easy, and it’s highly unlikely that a long list of “perfect” clients is going to fall right into your lap. It takes work, and any time there is money or deadlines involved, it can make things even trickier. A 2014 study found that there is a disconnect when it comes to the inner workings among client-agency relationships, with 88% of clients claiming to speak their mind freely, while just 36% of agency partners agreed. That means, oftentimes, the agency-client relationship is a dysfunctional one.

Communication is Key

You may already think you’re communicating well, but there’s always room for improvement. Whether you’re presenting a keynote speech, as Andy Miller of Polycom did so effectively at TIA 2012: Inside the Network, working with internal team members or staff, or with clients, communicating openly and honestly is a must. Anticipate questions and potential problems ahead of time and think about the solutions before your conversation. When something goes wrong, being honest is always the best policy, as trying to cover something up is always worse than the actual offense. Listen and be receptive – while criticism can be hard to take especially when you’ve put your best efforts in, if you can prove that you’ve heard what they’re saying and that you can deliver exactly what they want, you’ll be ahead of the game.

Set Expectations Early On

As soon as possible in a new relationship, set expectations through clear communication, including timelines, workflow processes, budgets, deliverables, etc. For example, share the timeline of when you’ll expect to finish something, which will not only help keep client expectations in check, but will help keep you on track too. Ideally, add a little extra cushion time. If you get things done sooner than promised, you’ll be even more appreciated.

Keep Clients Updated Regularly

When working on a long-term project it’s important to keep your clients updated on a regular basis. Show them how you’ve progressed, don’t just disappear, waiting until the very last minute to deliver. Clear reporting by delivering statistics, updates, and so on at regular intervals shows that you value your client and allows your client to trust in your services.

Understand Your Clients Better

Asking lots of questions and having casual conversations occasionally too, will help you to understand your clients better and get a feel from where they’re coming from. Know some of the day-to-day pressures they face as it provides better perspective, making communication easier. You’ll also be better able to understand what you’re hearing so that you can act on it. Be an active listener and you’ll know what your client’s needs and concerns are, an important part of helping to solve their problems, and earning their business.