Client Management: 7 Practical Tips for Winning and Retaining Clients
Agencies lose one in four clients every year, according to a 2020 report by Gould Partners. Most of this churn is the result of bad client experiences. PWC’s Future of CX Report states that “32% of all customers would stop doing business with a brand they loved after one bad experience.”
You need effective client management to create better experiences for your clients. Effective client management is about showing customers you care about their business, positioning yourself as a strategic partner, and creating opportunities for seamless collaboration. This article shares seven practical client management tips to help you win and retain clients.
1. Set and manage clients’ expectations
Setting expectations allows you and the client to get on the same page regarding your agency’s processes, your scope of work, deliverables, the client’s priorities, and how you can help them achieve those priorities. You can spot red flags like if the client has an unrealistic demand or if there’s a scope of work mismatch.
Kim Herrington, Creative Director at Orsanna, says, “During the sales process, listening to what potential clients want and reiterating it back to them to verify is a simple and effective way to make sure you’re both on the same page about overall goals. You should also document these goals in a proposal. If goals change during the project, your agency can easily point to scope creep and why you need to charge more. In addition, standardizing your proposal and signing process can make sure your team doesn’t make assumptions about client goals that can be detrimental to the work—and you’d be surprised how few agencies do this during the sales process.”
A pre-onboarding questionnaire can also help you gather information about the client’s project expectations and outcomes. In your questionnaire, ask questions like:
- What does success look like to you?
- What are your business goals?
- What are your top pain points and biggest challenges?
2. Practice transparent communication
46% of businesses say they’ve “lost a customer because of poor communication.” Sarah King, Senior Digital Account Manager at Seventy7, says, “In these uncertain economic times, businesses need to know they’re spending on something that gets results. So keep them in the loop, give those results added context, and tell them what it takes to better them next time too.”
Transparent communication starts from your first contact with the client, and it’s most important as you begin reporting project results to clients.
Pat Ahern, Partner at Intergrowth, says, “One of my favorite tips to better retain clients is to hold regular consultation/reporting calls to walk through results and structure every call in one of two manners. During great months (growth exceeds expectation, no roadblocks in deliverables, etc.), focus the discussion on how great things went, showcasing the metrics that improved that can be tied most closely to revenue for the client. During bad months (growth comes short of expectations, miscommunication issues, or deliverable delays), focus the discussion on what went poorly and what you're going to do in the following month to compensate, internalizing blame as much as possible.”
Honesty is the key to a long-lasting client relationship. Admitting when things don’t go to plan lets your client trust you and opens communication so you can find a solution to issues together.
3. Embrace collaboration
Tristan Harris, Demand Generation Senior Marketing Manager at Thrive Digital Marketing Agency, says, "For me, the best way to ensure that you meet your client's needs is by getting them involved in the process from the start. This will help keep both parties on task and ensure no one falls behind or forgets anything along the journey.”
There are two simple ways to involve clients in your project execution process.
Share an onboarding document
A detailed onboarding document spells out the roles and responsibilities of the client throughout the project duration, so they’ll know what to do and when to do it. For example, in your onboarding document, tell clients how often they’ll need to approve documents or make subject matter expert introductions.
Mark Colgan, Co-founder and CEO of Speak On Podcasts, says, “At our 20 person agency with 100 customers, we use a customer facing onboarding timeline that is shared with each customer to help smooth the onboarding process and improve the service delivery, which in turn helps us retain and upsell.”
Add clients to a central collaboration workspace
A central collaboration workspace makes it easy for you to communicate with clients when you need their input on a deliverable. Rather than sending emails to clients — which can easily get buried in their inbox — you can add them to Portal and assign tasks directly or send in-app messages to them.
4. Show genuine enthusiasm
Clients need to know that you care about their business and you don’t just see them as the means to another paycheck.
Stacey Kane, Business Development Lead at EasyMerchant, says, “Going the extra mile for a client pays off in the long run. Be proactive and show interest in fixing potential issues your client may be facing to give off the impression that you are a company that is with the client through the good and the bad. Offer expertise or a very formulated opinion that may be considered useful and make sure you celebrate the successes and achievements of your clients as well.”
You also need to show your clients that you care about their overall wellbeing. Paige Arnof-Fenn, Founder and CEO of Mavens and Moguls, says, “My tip is to disconnect from technology and focus on cultivating human, face to face relationships. Meeting for coffee or lunch even virtually can accomplish so much more than e-mail exchanges, social media posts, etc. and it is a great way to get to know people better, their interests, hobbies, and dreams. I have found that building relationships is what drives my business and technology supports them once they are solidified.”
5. Treat clients with respect
The best way to show respect is to always listen to your client’s perspective, even if you don’t agree with it. Stacey Kane says, “Sometimes, there will be misunderstandings between you and clients. The first priority in order is to reconnect with your client and find a way to understand their perspective so start with their vision. This helps align your perspective as to what results your clients expect from you. It's a good reset when you're stuck with meeting your client's expectations.”
Treating clients with respect helps you maintain healthy agency-client relationships.
6. Assign a dedicated client relationship manager
You need a client relationship manager to own your agency-client working relationship. Having too many people communicating with your client at the same time can lead to information inconsistencies — one person tells the client “x,” and another person says the opposite. A good client relationship manager communicates confidently, identifies opportunities to delight the client and win more business for your agency, and has strong industry knowledge.
Pearl Kasirye, the Head of PR at Pearl Lemon Group, says, “Have a dedicated client relationship manager who has excellent people skills, is very likable, and knows how to keep situations under control. This person is the middle man between the client and the team managing their campaign. The CRM should have consistent meetings with the clients to address concerns, complaints, or anything else that could come up. This level of attention will make clients feel like their money is being well spent and that the agency cares about their overall customer experience.”
7. Have a detailed offboarding process
Client relationships should not end abruptly after you receive the final paycheck. Wrap things up with a detailed offboarding process.
A detailed offboarding process helps you leave the client on a positive note — and minimize/erase any negative feelings they may have. It increases the likelihood of clients requesting your services in the future or referring you to potential clients in their network.
There are three major steps to offboarding clients.
Present a final report
A final report gives the client a bird’s eye view of the project execution — from start to finish.
It summarizes the project, outlines tasks completed and highlights the results you achieved for the client. This is your opportunity to refocus the client’s attention on project wins and share suggestions on how they can maintain the impact of these wins.
Give and ask for feedback
Feedback enables you and the client to identify possible improvements that can be made in subsequent projects.
Ameet Mehta, Technology Entrepreneur and Founder of SyndicationPro, says, “Constructive feedback…helps solidify your relationship with the client and demonstrates your commitment to providing excellent service. It also allows you to see if any recommendations were implemented or if there was anything you may have missed in your assessment of the project.”
You can give and request feedback during your final meeting with the client. If you prefer asynchronous feedback, you can send an email or use a survey to collect the information you need from the client.
Leave the communication lines open
Continue to cheer past clients from the sidelines — engage with them on social media, send regular check-in emails, and celebrate business milestones with them.
Leaving communication lines open keeps you at the top of your client’s minds, so they can reach out to you when an opportunity arises to work together again and make word-of-mouth referrals.
The secret of great client management is being an all-round awesome team to work with
Freelance content marketer, Megan Collins Quinlan, says that ultimately, great client management is “about delivering what you say you will, when you say you will and to the quality they are happy to pay for. Plus, be friendly and professional. Be a nice person to deal with.”
Client management is easier when you use Portal. Portal is an all-in-one client management system that allows you to oversee client interactions effectively and deliver excellent experiences to your clients. When you add a new client to Portal, you can:
- Onboard them seamlessly
- Automate payments
- Set up efficient project management workflows
See how Portal works for free.