The success a company enjoys — while certainly a result of the hard work and talent of its employees — is also directly attributable to its clients. After all, clients are the reason we’re in business in the first place and their support and relationship deserve gratitude.
While it’s easy to become consumed with winning and then performing the work, it’s important to not lose sight of the relationship at the center of it. Needless to say, they shouldn’t be taken for granted. So what are some practical ways that a firm can show clients an attitude of gratitude? Here are some thoughts.
As with any relationship, words of affirmation play a critical role in letting the other person know that you value the relationship. And in business, it can never hurt to leave no doubt in the client’s mind that their relationship is valuable to your firm. And it should start before you get the job, by simply expressing how much your firm would like the business in the first place. But once you’ve landed the client, be sure to let them know how much you appreciate their business. While there are many different ways to show gratitude, verbal expression should be at the top of your list.
In the hustle and bustle of business development, it’s not uncommon for existing clients to get pushed aside for the latest chase and newest “client of the moment.” But as we’ve said before, clients need nurturing too, and one of the best forms of business development is providing existing clients outstanding customer service and delivering on your promises. And in addition to saying how much you value the business, nothing speaks louder than hard work and an exceptional product. By consistently delivering, you demonstrate your gratitude for the business and desire to keep it.
There are no perfect people and there are certainly no perfect companies either. Every firm is going to make mistakes, fail to meet expectations or miss the mark in some way. Unfortunately that is unavoidable. But when that time comes, its important to take ownership of the mistake and do whatever is necessary to make the situation right. A client feels valued when their partner is transparent, admits fault and does what it needs to do (even at their physical and monetary expense) to maintain the relationship. Humility, while a somewhat rare trait in business, is a desirable characteristic of a true partner and certainly conveys an attitude of gratefulness.
An often overlooked (and important) way to show clients gratitude is face time. We live in a day when so much business is conducted via email, conference calls and web conferences. And while that can be a great thing, clients still deserve face time with the person most responsible for the account. Even for clients out of the area, scheduled meetings or the occasional “drop-in” should be an ongoing part of managing the relationship. And not just face time with the account manager, but face time with the CEO or some other senior level person. While this may not always be possible with larger firms, for small and mid-market firms, a CEO that is visible to a client, shows that they’re valued and appreciated.
Another key way to demonstrate gratitude for your clients’ business is to treat them like a partner at the table. This happens when your firm demonstrates a strong sense of stewardship over every aspect of the business relationship. Because it’s important for clients to feel that they have your total respect: respect for their time, their ideas, their opinions, their budgets and their priorities. A true partner is always looking out for your best interest, and is focused on shared success, not just personal gain. Making a client feel like you’re in this thing together and you always have their back, inevitably conveys a sense of gratitude for the relationship.
Most clients probably expect to receive something from you around the holidays, as is fairly customary in business. But what about the rest of the year? It’s one thing to receive a show of gratitude when it’s all but expected, it’s another thing when it’s not. There are a slew of ideas showing random acts of gratitude. Here are just a few:
• Randomly deliver cookies, donuts or other food to their office
• Remember birthdays and do more than just send an email
• Send flowers and cards with the lost of a loved one
• Host a client appreciation dinner or event
• Take them out to lunch on a semi-regular basis
• Send them occasional event tickets or movie passes
It’s less about the what and more about the when. By showing gratitude “just because,” you send a message that you value the relationship, even when you’re not required to.
Clients are truly the lifeblood of business and they are owed a continuing show of thankfulness. And not just for their business, but also for the confidence that they place in your firm’s ability to deliver.
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