If you have been running your own business you will understand the challenges associated with effective client management. It isn’t easy to persuade someone that you are the best person for the job. Sometimes converting leads into sales can seem like a never-ending task.
That said, once you have won the business the challenges don’t end there. Now you have got the new client the trick is to retain him or her. Many business relationships start off well but get off track along the way.
There can be many reasons for this but mostly client management breaks down due to one single area.
Communication or lack of it is the underlying reason for the majority of business relationship breakdowns. Being able to articulate clearly and effectively will help immensely in client management to sidestep many major issues.
Be open and honest
Maintaining a policy of openness and honesty is vital in good client management. It goes a long way towards building relationships. If your clients know that you are being truthful with them it will develop trust.
If you run into problems or issues, get them out in the open. Work with your client towards a mutual solution. They may not always be happy but they will appreciate your integrity. Which means they will be more inclined to partner with you in the future.
Define the scope of work clearly for effective client management
Understanding what your client wants is vital. To deliver the work, you will need to comprehend what is expected. Whatever the nature of your business it will be helpful to use a Scope of Work document (SOW) to assist with client and project management.
There are free templates available online or you can generate your own. Using a Scope of Work gives both parties a written account of project deliverables, tasks, dates, duration, and other items.
Use it as a guide for the project at hand. Or to highlight extra fees for items that fall outside the project scope. Whether you are offering social media management or SEO services a SOW a great tool to have.
Good client management means being realistic
If a project demands more of your time than you can give, or it falls outside the boundaries of your capabilities then it is important for client management to make sure you say so. It may mean losing a customer but it’s better than gaining a dissatisfied one.
That may be damaging to your reputation. Not all business is good business and if you are not qualified to do the task at hand its better to give it a miss and focus on more suitable projects.
Client management of expectations
Many clients have an unrealistic idea about the cost of a project or how long it should take. This is where you have to have confidence in yourself. You are the expert at your business, no-one else. Don’t let a demanding client back you into a corner.
Your client management skills will be put to the test here. Explain how long each section of the project will take and why. Build a realistic picture of how the work will be completed with a timeline.
Manage your client’s expectations with a rational and well-planned work structure so they understand the implications and nuances of your tasks.
Always deliver on time
After communication, tardiness is cited as one of the biggest business annoyances. As your clients may be dependent on the work you provide or need it as part of a bigger project, delays can cause all sorts of problems.
Carefully assess the work required and allocate an appropriate amount of time to complete it. It is also good business practice to build in some extra time as a buffer across the entire project.
As part of effective client management, many business owners build in 10 or 15 percent of additional time to allow for any issues or unforeseen circumstances that may derail the project.
Break projects into smaller deliverables
To keep projects on track it is advisable to work with clients and divide projects and tasks into smaller deliverables. This provides targeted dates for completion of specific functions and allows you and your client to keep tighter control of timelines.
Using this as part of your client management strategy also means that you can react faster to correct any items. Deliverables that are going off course or running past the designated delivery time can be quickly corrected.
Good client management means never over-promising
While you want to keep your client happy and have them feel assured that they have hired a true expert, don’t get caught up in the moment and agree to things that you can’t possibly deliver.
Often this is well-intentioned and born from a genuine desire of wanting to assist, but it is just bad client management. It is important to not get carried away at the moment. Make sure that you can deliver what your client is asking for.
If it’s not in your wheelhouse then say so. No client likes broken promises so it’s best to avoid being in that situation.
Check-in and ask for feedback for positive client management
Back to communication! It is a great idea to check in with your client periodically to take their ‘temperature’ and gauge how happy they are with the progress of the work.
This will serve a couple of purposes. It will give you an idea of the client’s level of satisfaction and asking them for input and feedback will make them feel like an important part of the whole thing.
Everyone likes to feel important and checking in with your clients regularly is an easy way of building goodwill and is an effective client management technique.
Be clear about add ons or extra charges
All projects run into problems or issues that may cost extra money. The majority of the time the extra fees will need to be passed on to your client. It is a good idea to highlight any extras upfront.
Extra materials, time, or complexity of work can all incur extra costs. Hopefully, you will have highlighted some standard extra fees on your scope of work, but for anything unforeseen or additional you will need to go to your client.
If you have built a good enough relationship with effective client management, then you can explain how and why extra items are needed.
In all business dealings honesty, communication, integrity, and timeliness are all key factors. When it comes to management of client’s expectations you need to be able to clearly articulate the factors and scope of the work that you will be undertaking.
Set realistic objectives and stick to them. Create a rapport with your client by involving them in the project at all stages. It is all about building a relationship and partnering towards a mutual goal.
These tips should help you to stay on track with your future client management interactions.