Clients matter. Unfortunately, not all clients understand the boundaries of a good working relationship, and some need more hand holding and communication than others.
Managing clients takes a bit more attention to detail, but it doesn’t need to absorb all of your available time. To successfully manage multiple accounts, you must become skilled at balancing the needs of different clients and staying on top of deadlines. By learning more about your clients, managing their expectations, surprising them effectively and asking the right questions, you can turn needy clients into satisfied return purchasers.
Start With a Conversation
When you onboard a new client, you start developing a relationship, and that first client interview gives you the opportunity to gather a lot of information, quickly. Try to schedule new client interviews for the end of the day or during times when you are not terribly busy; an open schedule gives you the time to really get into what the client needs and expects.
The more you know about the client, the better you can handle the service aspect. You spend a lot of time and money bringing customers through the door, and the last thing you want to do is usher them back out. An effective onboarding process can help keep customers and streamline communications.
Manage Client Expectations
Needy clients may call, text or email several times a day. If you always answer those communications within a few minutes, you may send the wrong message. Yes, you want to be responsive to your clients, but you must make them realize you are not always available at their convenience. Try to normalize communications with scheduled calls and regular work updates. If clients know they will get an update every week, they will be less likely to contact you mid-week.
Be clear about your office hours and process, so clients know when to expect a return communication. When clients know what to expect from the relationship, they will not turn to demanding instant responses and hand holding. For example, if you’re working on a marketing campaign, let your client know you won’t answer the phone while working on the creative portion of the campaign. This simple communication will help you avoid distractions, and it will let clients know a missed call is a result of hard work, not poor communication.
Surprise and Delight Your Clients
A pleasant surprise is one way to turn a clingy client into a delighted one. Rukkus, a ticket sales site, used pizza to break the ice with new clients. Sending a large pizza lunch to new clients and wooing them over a pie did a lot more to cement client relationships than a cold call or basic presentation. One of the big reasons why clients become clingy is due to anxiety over the new business relationship; by surprising them with a pizza lunch, out-of-the-box gift idea or customized solution for their pain points, you turn an anxiety-filled client into a satisfied customer.
Always Ask What, Never Why
Most startup entrepreneurs have a few traits in common. Attention to detail and a need to control their company goes hand in hand with eventual business success. New CEOs try to have their finger on the pulse of every new venture, which might mean they call more often, require frequent updates and revise your goals constantly. When that happens, it is tempting to ask why they are making changes.
Asking “why” puts people on the defensive. Instead of getting to the real goal behind the switch, you wind up with rationalizations that are rarely helpful. Asking “what these changes are meant to accomplish” allows you to see the end zone and make suggestions that add value for the client. If you only ask why, you create a more combative environment. Using other open-ended question formats puts the focus on finding a solution, not pointing a finger.
Know When to Pull the Plug
After you have had a sit-down with a new client and laid out a schedule, you need to stick to those boundaries. Some clients truly are more trouble than they are worth. Once you have explained clearly how communications should be handled, surprised and delighted your new clients, and guided them through the revision process with empathy and a “what” approach, you might need to fire one or more of those clients.
When clients tie up your time for a relatively small return, they may not be the type of client you need. When you hit all the milestones, on time, and your work exceeds expectations, you know there is no reason to waste hours on the phone in reassurance calls. You don’t want to say goodbye to a source of revenue, but you must realize some clients cost too much in time.
You can resolve most clingy client issues with a very up-front approach and a communications and reporting schedule, since the goal is to shepherd every client into a comfortable and lasting relationship with your company. When all else fails, it might be time to pull the plug.