Are Your Clients in it for the Long Haul?
The word “partnership” gets thrown around loosely when describing client relationships. What does it truly mean? Is it that your clients are too comfortable to go elsewhere, or that you got their daughter a really cool wedding gift? In my experience, a partnership isn’t either of those things— instead, it’s a relationship of mutual respect based on producing results.
I grew my startup from one employee (me) to a nationwide operation serving high-profile clients. The road has been bumpy at times, sure, but the biggest lesson I’ve learned is what it takes to maintain true partnerships with clients: trust, respect, shared values and good communication. Here are some insights gleaned from 20 years of servicing long-term clients:
Understand a Client's Motivation
Design your services to help your client achieve their goals. It sounds obvious, but often plans are developed without benchmarking against goals. We assess results for each client monthly, quarterly and annually, adjusting our services as we go to maximize client benefit. They appreciate our customized approach, which leads to an even greater understanding of their needs.
The Client Can Fire You at Any Time
You have to adopt the mindset of proactively earning your client’s business every day. If you’re not helping them achieve objectives, you’re not doing your job. The definition of a true partnership is not a contract with a handcuff clause. Going the extra mile to help your client shine is a solid stepping stone toward a stronger relationship.
You Can Fire Them, Too
Respect is a two-way street. I remember a situation when a client was verbally abusive with my team. I confronted him about his unprofessional behavior and requested that he speak politely to my team. The behavior continued, so I gave them 30-days’ notice. In the end, the rude individual was terminated, my employees received an apology, and we’ve enjoyed a strong relationship for 15 years. Not only do you have to treat your employees with dignity—your clients do, too.
Company Culture is Key
I’ve seen employees leave for a “better opportunity,” only to come back because of our company culture. Work-life balance is a buzzword, but are you truly affording your staff that benefit? I set reasonable parameters, and employees return the favor by being even more accountable. I encourage employees to find their balance. I make an effort to do the same, staying involved in my children’s lives and sharing hobbies with my wife.
Say "I'm Sorry"
In 2010, I brought all call center operations in-house. The switchover was not seamless, as I underestimated some challenges. My rowboat had leaks and was slowly sinking— and my clients felt it. So, I embarked on what I now call my “apology tour.” I was truthful with clients about what I had under control and what needed to be handled. One major municipality requested I speak directly with some very frustrated members who were rightfully fed up with the situation. I was transparent with them, and we all ended up on the same page. My clients gave me some breathing room, the transition was completed successfully, and we recently celebrated 10 years of service with that municipality.
Do the Right Thing for the Client, and the Money Will Follow
An early mentor gave me that advice, and I’ve faithfully followed it. Doing the right thing fosters good business decisions and helps me sleep better at night. If you always work with your client’s best interest at heart, and couple it with good communication, you will build strong trust, respect and credibility over time.
Paul Binsfeld (pictured) is an EO Arizona member, as well as the founder and president of Company Nurse, LLC. In 2016, Paul launched Enspiri Solutions, LLC, the first-to-market SaaS solution for workers’ compensation nurse triage management. Contact Paul at firstname.lastname@example.org.