Customer loyalty and retention begin with an effective client management process.
Winning a customer is only half the battle—or even less than that. Without loyal customers improving your return on investment (ROI) over time, you’re spinning your wheels. Keep losing customers, and you’re on your way to burnout or being out of business.
You need customer retention to succeed. And a critical component of that is effective client management.
Quick Definition: What Is Client Management?
Simply put, client management is the method of managing the relationship between you or your business and its clients. Personally, though, we find this a bit…impersonal.
The ultimate goal isn’t management for the sake of workflows or efficiency. Well-run client management systems are about something much bigger: Building healthy client relationships and meeting client needs.
Client Management Pitfalls
Relationships are built on trust, which is developed over time. But even with brand-new clients, you can start to lay the groundwork for great customer relationships by establishing a client management system.
This system should outline what client management looks like at your organization. It should address the most common pitfalls of managing clients, which are typically in one or all of 3 categories:
- Not enough insight into clients’ needs
- Lack of communication or transparency
Creating a framework and process to manage clients that solves for these problems is the key to excellent client relationships, both with existing clients and new ones.
Next are 5 ways you can implement a client management process for your organization to delight customers and deliver outstanding client service.
1. Understand Your Clients’ Needs
If you don’t have a deep understanding of client expectations and needs, it can leave you both feeling discouraged. At worst, it can result in a lost client.
The more you know about your clients, the better able you are to provide exceptional services and make informed decisions.
The information you’ll want and how deep you dig will depend on your business model. But it can be helpful to know:
- Why they are interested in your product or service
- When it’s most useful for them
- Which methods of communication they prefer
- How they like to pay for services
- What their expectations are
- What other options they have
Methods for gathering client information include background research and analytics, direct requests via forms or surveys, 1:1 conversations, reviews, and comments on your website or social media.
2. Document Important Client Details
Every interaction with a client is an opportunity to gather information. But if you don’t have a process in place for documenting that information, you risk losing it—and the connections it could build with your client.
Both you and your team members should have visibility into basic client information as well as a client’s needs, preferences, and activity. This is especially important as your business grows and you delegate more responsibilities, or when projects change hands.
Having client information that is well-documented and easily accessible gives you a clear pathway to tailor your services based on the client’s needs and empowers your team to resolve any concerns.
3. Invest in CRM Software or Client Management Software
Collecting, organizing, and maintaining all customer data can be a full-time job. In fact, many large organizations have a client manager on staff.
Customer relationship management (CRM) software or client management software serves as a single source of information for you and your team to access client information and keep track of client activities.
Using a tool like FreshBooks Client Management is a simple way to keep clients’ information, invoices, and payments organized in one central place. You can store client details, collaborate on projects, and share files, plus manage the financial details of each client (invoices, tracked time, reports), all from one centralized place.
More complex, stand-alone CRM tools can incorporate marketing automation, project management, and more. Some also integrate with your accounting.
4. Keep Track of Client Activities
Let’s say your client pays an invoice on time. If you get notified of the payment, you can promptly send a thank-you message and “strike while the iron is hot” by mentioning additional projects or services they might be interested in.
It may sound like a daunting task, but it’s easy with the right CRM tool in place. For example, with FreshBooks Notifications, you’ll get instantly notified when a client has paid an invoice, and it will be recorded in the Client Relationship Feed. You can even set up an automated thank-you message.
As a freelance writer, I always follow up payments with an email like this:
Thank you so much for your timely payment.
It was great working on this eBook with your team. Everyone worked well together and I really appreciated the detailed outline you provided.
This quarter, I have some availability and I would love to continue working with you. In particular, I have a few ideas for a blog post that might be a great supplement to the eBook.
Please let me know your thoughts and if you’d like to continue collaborating!
This email not only shows my appreciation for their business but I’m also making the most of an opportunity to ask for collaboration on future projects.
An email like this communicates to the client that you’re invested in building a long-term relationship with them.
5. Cultivate Open Communication
It can be challenging to implement the above tactics if you aren’t effectively communicating with clients. That goes both ways: Clients should feel comfortable reaching out to ask your company questions and you should be communicating with them.
Cultivating open communication with clients starts at the beginning of the relationship, usually when a client inquires about your business. Ensure they know who to contact and when, and provide them with multiple ways to get in touch.
The communication framework you establish may include:
- Regular email check-ins
- Conference calls when a milestone is approaching
- In-person meetings
Keep Clients Updated Throughout the Process
Let clients know how the project is progressing. Offer details about small successes or milestones: This helps boost morale and overall satisfaction with your company.
For example, if you have a home construction company, updating clients when cabinets and ceiling beams are expected to arrive gets them excited. It’s something to look forward to and makes them feel a part of the team and in the loop.
I share setbacks, too. This can be scary, but sharing the good and the bad builds trust and shows the client that you genuinely care about the relationship.
The bottom line is that if clients are confident in their ability to communicate with you, the more comfortable they will feel with you—and the more likely it is that the relationship will be long-lasting.
Develop Your Customer Feedback Loop
It’s hard to deliver effective client management when you aren’t clear on what is needed to make the client successful. To get quality feedback, you need an effective customer feedback loop.
Ideally, a feedback loop will include processes for:
- Soliciting feedback via outreach (e.g., surveys)
- Receiving feedback through always-on lines of communication
- Analyzing feedback
- Implementing changes based on feedback
Here’s a glimpse into a simple customer feedback loop:
The Results of Effective Client Management
Clients understand the value in companies that deliver exceptional service and are willing to pay a premium for it. One study found that 76% of clients expect companies to understand their needs, and 67% are willing to pay more for a better client experience.
So what does your business have to gain from fulfilling this expectation?
Better Client Retention
Consistently going above and beyond client expectations can make the difference between a client who stays with your business for years or leaves for a competitor. Having numerous loyal clients will reduce churn and increase customer lifetime value (CLV).
When clients are happy with your services, they are more likely to recommend your business to others. This has a compounding effect as referred customers are 4 times more likely to refer others to a company they’ve interacted with.
Cross-Sell and Upsell Your Services
Want a better ROI? Focus on nurturing loyal customers. Existing customers are 50% more likely to buy from you and are willing to pay 31% more for your services compared to new customers.
Client Management: It’s About Trust
Good client relationships are built on trust. You can’t earn that overnight. But by setting in motion a well-oiled client relationship management process using the 5 strategies above, you’ll be on your way to gaining your clients’ trust and the benefits of long-lasting customer relationships.
about the author
Megan Smith is a B2B marketer based in Toronto with experience in SaaS, e-commerce, and fin-tech industries. Megan creates content that educates, inspires, and drives revenue.