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Guide to client relationship management: tips, tools, and more

Learn how to improve your client relationship management through better communication and collaboration tools. The more you and your clients are on the same page, the more successful projects you’ll have for long-term success. 

The heart of your business isn’t your services. It’s the clients you serve. Building strong relationships with your clients strengthens customer loyalty and increases the chances that your customers will recommend your business to others.

Research shows that 89% of companies consider customer experience their primary area of competition. By shifting your focus to client relationship management, you can improve your business success exponentially. 

In this guide, we’ll outline some tips and tricks to improve client relationships and showcase some tools you can use to improve client relationship management. 

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The importance of client relationship management

Client relationship management requires a concerted effort to keep your current customers satisfied with your brand, and it’s a critical component of business success. 

Small business owners and contract workers may feel like client relationship management doesn’t apply to them—after all, you can always find new clients—but it matters no matter the size of your business. 

Research shows that acquiring a new customer is 5-7 times as expensive as retaining an existing customer. And businesses that focus more on customer experience, on average, have 5.7 times as much profit as businesses that neglect this critical business component. 

Tips for communicating effectively with clients

One of the top ways you can improve the customer experience is to focus on how you communicate with your clients. Effective client communication can prevent future disagreements and disappointments, giving you a better chance of achieving customer success. Here are 3 tips to get you started. 

1. Focus on transparency

Sometimes a client’s expectations don’t match what your company provides. You can forestall these issues with clear, open communication. Communication is more than what you say to customers. It also includes written language, down to the fonts you use and the size of your words. Even images are part of your communication. 

One of the best ways to improve transparency is to create clear contracts for your clients. These business contracts should lay out the services you provide and the costs of those services and list anything you might upcharge for. If you’re a freelance writer and offer two edits before charging additional fees, for example, include that information in your contract along with the cost of subsequent edits. Professional documentation helps clients and businesses stay on the same page. 

2. Triple-check written communications for clarity

Written communications—including SMS or text messages, web content, and email communications—are easily misinterpreted. Research shows that while people think their emails are understood about 90% of the time, it’s actually about 50%. Without things like body language and tone of voice to clarify written statements, they can come out the wrong way. 

Tools like Grammarly can help you identify your tone and reduce miscommunications. But regardless of the tools you’re using to improve your grammar, punctuation, and tone, it’s still a good idea to read and reread written communications to ensure they are interpreted correctly. 

One strategy is to ask other people in your office to read your email drafts before you send them and help you identify things that could be misconstrued or misunderstood.

3. Be an active listener

It’s important that you solve a client’s problem, but a problem-solving mindset may prevent you from actually listening. Learning to be an active listener is a key skill to any communication.

Note that listening to your customer isn’t limited to verbal communication. While you should actively listen during phone calls or meetings, you may also need to use active listening skills when reading emails, reviews, or customer surveys. 

Becoming defensive when a customer critiques your business or services is a natural response. It’s also super unhelpful. When you hear feedback you don’t like, try to understand the frustration from your client’s point of view. 

The best way to show you’re an active listener is to be mindful of your clients’ needs. As you get to know clients, you may find that one client needs more frequent check-ins from you, another requires more visual aids to understand your work, and a third needs more one-on-one support. Adapting your communication based on client needs will improve your relationship and reduce the risk of misunderstandings. 

Dealing with difficult clients and miscommunications

Miscommunication happens. Sometimes, client expectations aren’t in line with what your company is willing or able to provide. Other times it may be due to errors in shipping or processing or technical difficulties. 

Regardless of a problem’s origin, how you respond to difficult clients and misalignment will directly impact your business’s success. 

Research shows that customers are 2.4 times as likely to stay with a company if it resolves their issues quickly. The faster you can resolve problems, the more likely you are to improve customer loyalty.

Focus on specifics 

If a client is unhappy with your work, clarify what they’re unhappy with. The only way you can improve what you’re offering—and potentially salvage the relationship—is if you know exactly what the problem is.

This may be a good time to review the contract you provided your client when you started working with them. For example: Say a client requests a second edit to the content you wrote for them, but you deny it because it’s too extensive. When you review your contract, you see that your client is upset because it says you provide two edits free of charge. To fix that, you can provide the current edit free of charge and potentially update future contracts to specify the extent of editing before additional charges are added. 

When you understand specific pain points for you and your customers, you are better positioned to respond appropriately and find a solution you can both live with. 

Don’t make a habit of burning bridges

If a client is challenging—for example, continually calling outside of your stated office hours or demanding more than your contracted work—you can choose not to work with them anymore. It’s one of the benefits of being an independent contractor.

But dropping clients comes with an inherent risk. Clients often communicate with others in their industry. If a professional treats them rudely, they may share that experience with their peers. This could limit your potential to gain the trust of new clients. 

Setting and enforcing clear boundaries can help prevent you from letting clients go in the first place. But if clients remain difficult to work with even after you’ve set and enforced your boundaries, you may need to let them go to protect your mental and emotional health. How you choose to cease working with that client will impact your ability to continue drawing new clients in the future.

Remember that previous clients can comment on your work to potential future clients. So, even if you know you would never want to work with a potential client again, it’s important to stay professional and do your best to satisfy their needs. 

You might make it clear that you will not take on additional commissions from a particular client, but you will finish the project you’re currently working on. Or maybe you know a fellow professional who would be willing to put up with a difficult client. Let the client know you think your colleague might be a good fit for them instead of blaming the client for being hard to work with.

Respond to negative feedback and reviews

If a difficult situation with your clients spills into public reviews, it’s important to address them. Another important strategy for improving customer relations is to respond to customer reviews, including (or maybe especially) the negative ones. Research shows that 87% of customers expect companies to reply to negative reviews, ideally within a week of posting. 

Customer reviews show future customers what they can expect from your company. If you ignore negative reviews, you send the message that you will ignore problems, too. But if you respond to negative reviews, apologize for any dissatisfaction, and offer to help resolve the issue if possible, you show potential clients that you value customer relations and will do your best to resolve problems quickly. 

Best practices for emailing clients effectively

Email is one of the best tools you have for direct communications with your clients. In addition to improving your clarity and transparency, there are some best practices you should keep in mind when creating emails for your clients. 

Branding your emails

Branding your emails ensures that your customers can recognize your emails at a glance. In addition to following email design best practices and including a personalized email signature, some steps you can take to brand your emails include: 

  • Using the same font and color choices on all your emails
  • Using the same tone of voice every time you write an email
  • Using an email template to give all your emails a standardized look
  • Including your logo at the top of your emails
  • Standardizing subject lines

Automated emails that save time

One of the keys to client relationship management is being able to communicate both effectively and efficiently. Automating communications can help you do both. 

For example, email automation allows you to:

  • Send welcome emails to new clients as soon as they provide their email address
  • Send canned reminder emails to clients about milestones or contract terms throughout a project
  • Send payment reminders to clients if they haven’t paid their bills yet
  • Send updates to large groups of customers
  • Send follow-up emails when clients haven’t responded
  • Send confirmation emails to provide a good experience when someone inquires, books, or schedules with you

But email isn’t the only thing that can be automated. For example, you can automate task reminders for yourself and your team to keep projects moving smoothly.  

By automating communications, you empower yourself to think more clearly about the words you’re using and plan your communications rather than simply reacting. This means that you’re less likely to miscommunicate and more likely to provide clear, transparent communication across the board. 

Tools that improve client communication

Automation and client portal software can help keep your communications organized and consistent.

Using a CRM or clientflow platform to manage your communications in one place

One of the easiest ways to miscommunicate is when messages and emails get lost. Instead of sifting through endless email threads, it’s helpful to keep everything in one place. You can manage your communications more efficiently with customer relationship management (CRM) software or a clientflow platform like HoneyBook. 

If you work with a team, a clientflow platform can also keep you all on the same page about what information has already been communicated to a client. Plus, you can track your project progress and see if you’re still waiting on something from your client, like an invoice payment. Some platforms also include a client portal to give your customers more visibility, which we’ll touch on below.

Using a client portal to stay organized and manage projects with clients

Client portal software can mean the difference between organized communication and chaotic projects.

With a client portal, you’ll provide your clients with more visibility into your projects, all with less work on your end. You can integrate client portal software directly into your website and use your company’s URL and branding. This means that all communications between you and your clients remain branded for your company, giving your customers a seamless experience. 

With the right client portal, you can view all communications and files between you and your clients in one place, facilitate automated communications, and even manage administrative tasks. This strategy empowers you to be proactive with your client communications instead of responding to client complaints as they pop up.

CRM tools can also save information about your clients that you can use to send them more personalized communication, leading to improved customer relations and retention.

Improve client relationship management with HoneyBook

Client relationship management is a major aspect of any business venture. It also takes careful planning and organization to get it right. You need to master active listening, plan your responses, and communicate in a way that your target audience can identify with. 

HoneyBook can help. As a clientflow platform, HoneyBook facilitates the entire process of selling and delivering your services. That includes capturing new business, booking them with strong contracts and invoices, and managing projects through effective client communication. 

With everything in one place, you’ll see how easy it is to complete successful projects and grow your business!

Manage, improve, and leverage client relationships

Manage your client communications and foster relationships within one platform.

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