In our Summer 2014 issue of AQ magazine we asked our very own Caroline Barrett, Associate Director – Client Services at Sequel Group, to give us her thoughts on the best way to manage client relationships.
Everyone works on behalf of clients – whether you are working for external clients who are outside of your organisation or figures within your own company. For an agency, clients are the resource upon which the success of the business depends.
External clients have choice. Ultimately they are the ones who make the pay checks possible and if they don’t like the product or service, they can easily take their business elsewhere.
In general, internal customers don’t have a choice. For example, if the IC team doesn’t like HR’s policies, they can’t fire that department and hire another.
Whether a ‘client’ is internal or external, good working relationships and the quality of those relationships can be what makes or breaks a project. A good working relationship, just like a good friendship, builds rapport and understanding between the parties. They’re so important, but you do have to work for it more often than not. It takes organisation, communication and commitment and it can sometimes be a juggling act; more difficult than that of a technical challenge on Great British Bake Off. You’re managing lots of things and often people at the same time, working with a variety of personalities and levels of seniority, while trying to keep everyone happy. It’s like trying to make the perfect double crust apple pie, all the while hoping you don’t end up with a soggy bottom. Sorry, I had to slip Mary Berry’s catchphrase in there. That woman is my hero!
So, having established it can be tricky to keep all parties happy, what would I say are the important things to consider to ensure that the relationship is fulfilling?
It takes more than clear and regular communication, although this certainly makes a contribution. It requires investing time and effort into understanding the client and their situation. The more value you offer, the more a client comes to depend on you.
Your word is your bond
When you say you’re going to do something, your client shouldn’t ever have reason to doubt that. No long-term relationship survives if the two parties aren’t honest with each other and clients are smart. They know when they are being misled or manipulated. Early or timely communication is crucial in the event something isn’t going to plan, so clients are always kept in the loop on all developments.
In it for the long haul
If the relationship is developing in all the right ways (and of course, you are providing the products or services your client needs), you can work on developing a partnership with the client—something that goes beyond individual project development. A client who determines you’re in it for the long haul, and that you’re actively motivated to help them succeed, soon begins to see you as more than just a supplier. You become a partner in their company and someone they grow to value, hopefully for years to come.
Please look out for our Autumn 2014 issue of AQ magazine – due out in September!