As the late American businessman and founder of Walmart, Sam Walton, once said:
“There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.”
In other words, creating successful relationships with clients, ones that keep them as clients for the long haul, is the basis of a successful company – no matter its size. Keeping clients happy isn’t always easy, but it’s very possible. At MultiLing, for example, many of our clients are now true partners—they learn from us and we learn from them—and have been coming to us for IP translation services for more than a decade.
The old adage is true: it’s much easier (and much cheaper) to keep a client than to replace one. Here are some tips we’ve learned over the years – as a technology enabled service company to large enterprises – on how to make client relationships last for years to come:
- Provide Quality: If you’re good at what you do, your clients will keep coming back for more, and will often be willing and eager to recommend you to others. To be good at what you do, you need to have the right people, processes and technologies in place, with the expertise in your industry. You don’t settle for second best – or just good enough – and neither should your clients.
- Demonstrate Integrity by Keeping Commitments: If you’re trusted and do what you say you will do, every time, you’ll be top-of-mind when other managers within your client’s myriad departments are looking for similar services – or related services your client might be looking to outsource. If something goes wrong and you are responsible for it, apologize for the mistake, learn, share ways you will fix it so it never repeats, and move on. If you do not keep commitments, even seemingly small ones, you lack integrity and will never develop trust.
- Communicate: The more communications there are between you and your client, and the more honest and forthright the relationship, the easier it will be to keep your client satisfied and any issues resolved. Be proactive. Update the client regularly on their project. Build transparency into your processes. In fact, don’t ever make them ask you for updates. Keep them informed about new services, new employees working on their projects and any news pertaining to your business that might help them or give your company additional credibility. In addition, when your clients call or email, make sure you – or the designated employees – respond in a timely manner. However, no amount of communication will offset a relationship that lacks trust. The bedrock of good communication is a long-term relationship built on trust (see 2). Is your word your bond?
- Keep Focused, But Adaptable: If your company’s overall services have proven successful, you’ll obviously want to stick with what has gotten you this far. However, as the enterprise grows, as your clients’ needs change, or as your competitive environment shifts, how you provide the services may not work as well as it previously did. Although it can be difficult, adjust accordingly. Several times over the years, I have had to step outside the box, look inwards, and reassess our assumptions about what our clients need and how we could best meet these needs. That sometimes means bringing in new managers with the specialized expertise we need to make the change, or to reevaluate the process and technologies we’ve been using, to better serve our clients. Most importantly, doing so requires an organizational culture, which must be nurtured at the top, of a desire to learn, a intrinsic quest to improve, and sufficient humility to change.
- Become Partners: Becoming a long-time partner likely requires you know your clients’ business almost as well as you know your own. You know their industry, their pain points, and how they work to provide their own clients with solutions to their issues. When client and vendor are partners, both bring ideas to the table and learn from each other. For example, nearly 15 years ago, we worked closely with one of the largest companies in the world to pioneer the five best practices critical to every patent translation: (1) centralized processes, (2) highly specialized teams, (3)quality control, (4) terminology management and (5) full implementation of advanced technologies. These “best practices” were developed by truly understanding the wants and needs of this client (and in turn their clients), and being open to changing the way we did business (see 4) to better serve them both.
Following these five fundamental policies with our Global 500 clients has resulted in trusted relationships and overall satisfaction for both parties. What has worked for you in building your client relationships?