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Doing Long Distance: Build Customer Relationships While Working From Home

Face-to-face interaction isn’t required for client relationship growth anymore, but it sure does help. So, now that many of us are sequestered to our kitchen tables, living room couches, or (if we’re lucky) home offices, that in-person relationship building is now off the table.   

While some companies already have their digital communication processes established, others that rely on face-to-face interactions may benefit from taking a step back and identifying how going virtual can foster just as strong client relationships as in-person communications.

  

Establish client trust through your initial processes 

Establishing client trust can look like many things. It means being responsive on email and phone, so clients know that they are taken care of. It means jumping into conversations with the right amount of background knowledge to streamline communications. It means sticking to deadlines. And it certainly means under promising and overdelivering.   

Sometimes, establishing that trust and initial relationship over just digital or virtual communication can be difficult, especially when working with sensitive information like confidential documents, passwords, and billing information. It’s important to make sure that your process of gaining new client information is secure and well-understood by both the client and the representative facilitating the information transfer. 

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Trust also looks like asking the right questions that communicate your company’s dedication to the new client relationship. Questions surrounding both concrete and abstract goals, company aspirations, past successes, and mistakes – anything that shows you’re interested in more than just numbers. At the end of the conversation, make sure the client feels like you are as enthusiastic about their mission as they are.  

Building multiple layers of evidence of trust before sensitive information sharing is a great way to keep a client feeling comfortable and confident.  

Create a communication plan that works for both parties   

Consistent and dependable communication is the #1 way to establish a healthy relationship with clients. Setting that standard early on will help both of you in the long run.   

Not every company has the same communication style. Some may want quarterly briefings that go through an itemized list, while others may want quick weekly calls that follow more of a need-to-know basis. Customizing communication timelines solely to each client preference can be a double-edged sword. So, coming up with a compromise off the bat is important for both parties. Make sure that the proposed timeline is realistic for your team – otherwise, you’ll be bogged down trying to keep up with meetings, or not meet the expectations you set. 

  

Find a couple of “easy wins” to weave in  

Whether you call them “cherry-on-top bonuses”, “extra mile efforts”, or just offering stellar services, these benefits that clients don’t expect are many times the most memorable actions you can take.   

This could be free consulting on a subject unrelated to your contract, accepting a rush order with no backlash, sneak peeks into an unreleased product, or whatever is considered above and beyond in your industry. Offering easy extras that require little time or money resources from your team on a semi-regular basis can greatly improve your reputation among clients, and make them feel a part of an inner circle.  

Set boundaries and deadlines  

As with any thriving relationship, boundaries are necessary. Clearly stating your office hours not only set expectations on when a client will get a response, it cuts down on any Saturday night phone calls you most likely want to avoid.  

Setting timeline expectations for projects also gives your team time to work it into their schedule without the client expecting same-day service. When a client understands why a timeline stands for certain projects, it clarifies the need for a timeline and strengthens their trust in the process.  

Setting deadlines is a two-way street as well – we’ve all experienced the client that is two weeks late on sharing crucial information, but still expects the same deadline from your team. Creating those client deadlines and establishing the timeline repercussions of missing that deadline is also an important aspect of the conversation – and you’ll thank yourself down the road.   

Utilize technology for better communication 

While we can’t do it in person, there is no shortage of ways to do it face-to-face. With group zoom meetings, screen sharing, presentation platforms, and zoom backgrounds to cover up your messy living room, client meetings are more inclusive than ever.  

Phone calls tend to come with easier setup, but more people than ever are comfortable with the technology and functionality of meeting platforms, and face-to-face communication can establish a deeper connection than just your voice.  

Are you ready to engage and impress your clients from the comfort of your home? If you need help discovering and implementing the long-term processes to grow and strengthen your client relationships, reach out to our team! 

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