For businesses that rely heavily on fostering client relationships, implementing an organized client management process is not an option. It's a necessity.
Experienced relationship managers know the actual value of both honing their client management skills and understanding how to use client management software effectively. By mastering both the soft and technical skills of customer relationship management, sales teams and project managers alike can improve customer satisfaction rates, increase client retention, and strengthen their business relationships.
But what exactly does creating a client management system entail? And why is it so crucial to get it right? Read on to find out.
What is Client Management?
Client management is the process of coordinating and supervising an organization's interactions with both clients and potential clients. Depending on the business, client management and customer management can sometimes be interchangeable. Typically, a customer is more likely to purchase a product or service through a brief interaction, and no long-term relationship between the seller and customer arises.
Conversely, a client usually pays for a service that instigates several exchanges with an organization. These interactions inevitably require more personalized attention that can develop deeper relationships between the company and the client.
In B2B industries, where product consideration time and service selling are a lot higher, the line between clients and customers blurs.
But no matter how you choose to define clients and customers, the ultimate goal shared between client relationship management and customer management remains the same — to build and maintain stable and lasting relationships that are mutually beneficial.
Why is client management so important?
To grow, you must not only bring in new clients, but you have to keep the ones you already have. A leaky bucket can't collect water.
Thus, fortifying customer relationships and fostering brand loyalty live at the heart of a healthy demand generation strategy. Happy clients and customers equal higher client retention rates and also build a pipeline of new leads in the form of word of mouth referrals.
Typical client manager responsibilities
Client managers must balance their business' needs with their client's needs, but ultimately, their main priority is maintaining client satisfaction. They do this by:
- Acting as the primary liaison between their organization and the client
- Building genuine relationships with their client
- Guiding clients through buying decisions
- Helping clients through onboarding and ensuring initial customer success
- Providing helpful resources when necessary
- Coordinating work with internal team members to ensure cohesion
- Watching for risks to client satisfaction
- Collecting customer satisfaction input through surveys
- Managing client expectations
- Ensuring deadline promises are met
A top-notch client manager possesses a mix of people-oriented and organizational skills combined with a good work ethic. They should:
- Be a good communicator who actively listens
- Approach their clients with empathy
- Exude patience with all clients — even those with trickier personality types
- Be highly organized
- Center all interactions around delivering a high degree of customer service
- Understand their client's organizational structure, products, and services
- Keep tabs on their client's industry trends
- Know the strengths and weaknesses of their internal team and plan accordingly
- Truly understand the client's objectives and ideas of success
- Proactively communicate both successful milestone achievement and inevitable delays
Common client management mistakes
Part of being a good client manager is also understanding what NOT to do. Here are the top client management mistakes rookies make:
Prioritizing client attraction over client retention
It's more expensive to acquire new clients than it is to retain existing clients. Never place so much attention on attracting new business if it means you can’t deliver for your current clients. .
Not truly listening to clients' needs
Many new client managers don't truly listen to the needs of their clients. Instead, they try to sell unneeded services or features, harming their reputation and lower the client's esteem. Not only does this annoy the customer, but it reduces your chances of keeping their business later on.
It's essential to communicate effectively within your internal team to ensure all milestone deadlines are hit. But unfortunately, delays and mistakes will happen. Instead of hiding errors, proactively communicate them to your clients with a plan on how you will rectify the situation. Most clients will appreciate the transparency. Also, don't forget to communicate your wins! Take the time to spell out how your organization is bringing value to your client.
Why Use Client Management Software
Just as marketers use marketing automation software to save time and improve efficiency on their campaigns, client managers can use Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software to better track and deliver their clients' needs.
What is CRM?
CRM software tracks and manages an organization's customer relationships throughout the entire customer lifecycle. It stores customer and prospect contact information, helps you qualify leads through the demand funnel to identify sales opportunities, and records customer help requests and activities — all in one central location.
Many CRMs also track lead activity, integrate with your email client, and include file storage for asset sharing internally and externally.
Features of an effective CRM
Every CRM is different. Keep in mind that your budget will determine the feature set available to you, but here is a list of general features provided by popular CRM software:
- Ability to store customer and prospect contact information (contact management)
- Dashboards to track your organization's KPIs (sales performance management)
- Dashboards and spreadsheets to track conversions in the sales funnel (metrics reporting)
- Quantification of a prospect's buying readiness through activity tracking (lead scoring)
- Qualification of high-quality leads (lead management)
- Ability to automate specific sales interactions
- Integrations with email clients, marketing automation software, and sometimes project management software
- Sales team workflow management
- CRM data file storage
- File storage and sharing for sales assets
- Role-based user profiles to gate view access
Automating to Land and Expand
The biggest CRM asset to growth is arguably automation. By automating repetitive sales tasks and implementing trigger and time-based notifications for internal staff, CRM software saves employee time and prevents silly mistakes due to forgetfulness.
Using personalization tokens
Personalization tokens insert a contact's personal information into general marketing and sales assets. For example, in an email blast campaign, you can use a personalization token to insert each recipient's individual names automatically, so you only have to manage a single email asset.
Personalization tokens allow you to take advantage of communication automation without sacrificing a personable tone of voice. Tokens can also allow you to segment campaigns by various filters. Examples include prospect geography, customer status, company size, or any other quality based on how your data fields are set up.
Tokens can even simplify and automate special personal emails; managers won't have to worry about missing a client's birthday or other landmark dates.
Post-purchase onboarding (customer success)
One of the most straightforward automated campaigns to set up is a post-purchase onboarding campaign to ensure new customers or clients have access to the resources they need to access their new product or service.
A website design agency might want to automate sending a client intake form to collect information on their project needs.
A SaaS company would likely send an email containing tutorial information, how to get started with their software, and links to their knowledge base and help desk. They could automatically trigger the email upon the customer's purchase.
Automated post-purchase onboarding is a great way to keep customer momentum moving before your client manager can reach out directly.
Renewals and upgrades
Another way to take advantage of automation is through notification setting. By sending automated notifications, account managers will be alerted to reach out to help clients renew their subscriptions before services lapse.
Cross-selling and upselling
Automation can help client managers deliver personal messages to clients whenever there is a new product or change in service. Campaigns can also suggest complementary services.
Another common but beneficial use for automation is review gathering. Campaign managers can trigger messages soliciting customer reviews after a customer has a positive interaction with your organization.
How to Choose and Implement Your CRM
CRM implementation is something you want to get right the first time. If it's not done correctly, faulty execution will jeopardize the integrity of all of your data — with disastrous results. That's why if you are launching a new CRM from scratch or you are switching CRM software, careful planning is integral.
Outline your process
First, outline your implementation stages with project timelines. Make sure your dates are realistic. Also, take the time to assess your team's strengths and weaknesses before assigning tasks. Determine if you will need to hire any additional resources to complete the project.
Determine essential features
Determine your budget. Then, think critically about what features you need in your CRM and which ones are just nice to have. Unfortunately, the more advanced features like AI capability can be costly.
Set up an organizational structure
Understand how you want to filter and sort your data. The structure of your data fields will determine how you can segment your customer data for campaigns. It will also rule how you can filter and segment your data for reporting and analytics.
If you expect your CRM to integrate with your marketing automation software as is best practice, you will also need to ensure your data fields match across both systems.
Implement, track, reiterate
Once your CRM is launched, track your lead management, qualification, reporting as well as sales management reporting and automated campaigns. It isn't easy to anticipate everything you genuinely need in planning. Think of your CRM setup as an iterative process to which you'll make continuous improvements. Nothing is ever final; it is only published.
The Future of CRMs for Client Management
As Artificial intelligence and neural networks advance, all software and CRM along with it will grow in terms of complexity and capability. Although AI is already an advanced feature in several of the most popular CRM software, it has exponential room for growth.
AI and predictive analytics
AI-driven chatbots will not replace customer service messaging. Even AI has its limitations. But we do think the interplay between chatbots and human customer service reps will continue to evolve, freeing more human time to devote to more complicated problems and questions.
Also, in the way AI can predict a customer's troubleshooting queries, AI will help client managers by sending helpful information to internal teams to handle customer issues better.
Pre-emptive suggestions and troubleshooting
Virtual assistants powered by AI will continue to improve in sophistication. Based on client interaction with your website, content, and members of your organization, they will be better able to predict the information and resources your clients are looking for.
By analyzing client data and activity, AI will provide customers a heightened level of personalization. AI will give the customers better-targeted products and services. Client reading habits and browsing behavior may even shape how web pages are laid out.
AI will also analyze a client's data and engagement activity to better predict their needs and how they will respond to new services and products. The full potential for advertising, cross-selling, and upselling is still untapped.
Hassle-Free CRM and Beyond
Portal is a modern all-in-one commerce solution that combines CRM, accounting tracking, file sharing, eSignature collection, messaging, and more. Free yourself from the minutiae of client management, so you can focus on building genuine, authentic relationships that charge your business.
Executing a well-planned and thoughtful client management strategy is essential for the health of your organization. Relationship management is the best way to retain valuable clients and grow your pipeline through referrals. By understanding the features you need in your client management software and the skills and mindset it takes to be a good client manager, you can grow customer loyalty alongside your business.