Think about your favorite client.
I’m talking about that client you absolutely love working with. Maybe it’s the business that brings consistent and consistently appealing projects your way. Or maybe it’s the person who’s always friendly and communicative, who appreciates your time and autonomy, who raves about you to their friends and colleagues.
Yes, that client:
- The client who seems like the perfect fit for you and your company
- The client you could spend hours chatting with
- The client whose values and growth trajectory align entirely with your own
Wouldn’t it be great if all your clients were like that one?
Sadly, fate tends not to work out that way. For every dream client, there’s one who’s—how should I put this?—the other kind of dream. Rhymes with “might-nare.”
You know, that other kind of client.
I’m referring to that client who doesn’t respect your boundaries, who doesn’t allow you to do your best work, who always needs more, faster and cheaper. It’s the client who texts you at 11:54pm on a Saturday with a sudden crisis they need fixed ASAP, micromanages you through the process, and then falls off the face of the Earth until the next “emergency.”
Oh yeah, and they’re always at least two months behind on paying you.
Yep, that client.
The problem (well, one problem) with that client is that they feel entitled to you. It comes down to the nature of the relationship. When referrals are the primary source of your business’s growth and success, you can’t afford to say “no” very often. You can’t turn down opportunities. You need to make yourself available for those clients—because they have power over you.
You just know that the person whose late-night text you ignore would be the one who trashes your reputation online. The person whose business you spurn could easily spread negative sentiment among their network about you and your company.
For B2Bs, every client matters—and every conversation counts.
Of course, most clients fall somewhere between these two extremes. And no one is one kind of person all the time. Back when I ran my own business, the vast majority of clients I worked with were pleasant, patient, caring human beings. But I had a few run-ins with people who had outsized expectations, or treated me like an app, or must have been going through something that inhibited them from bringing their kindest selves to the client–contractor relationship.
I took the good with the less-good because I had to. I know of plenty of professionals who do the same. In B2B, every relationship matters—and every interaction has high stakes. For businesses such as agencies, consulting firms, and IT services providers, a single contract may bring thousands of dollars, tens of thousands of dollars, or more, in monthly or annual recurring revenue. Moreover, showing up for every client is an investment in generating referrals and word of mouth.
The good news is that challenging experiences don’t have to last forever. Provide the right level of service and, over time, an unpleasant situation will work itself out. Difficult clients will mellow and learn to trust you implicitly. Long back-and-forths will diminish. Check-ins will become less frequent. Monthly engagements will evolve into retainer agreements.
The time and effort you put into establishing the relationship will make you indispensable—and easy to recommend—and the cycle repeats itself from there.
Eventually, maybe, you might even have enough revenue and mental space to proactively strategize and market your own business. And then you can truly find your niche—the sweet spot where you can choose to work with only the clients you want to work with, and do only the work you love to do.
In other words, you’ll have more clients like that first one, which means fewer clients like that other one.
All of the above is to say that the key to growing your business on your terms is optimizing client experience. Here are a few tips for how to get there from here.
5 tips for building trust in high-stakes client interactions
There are five easy practices you can adopt today to build trust with every client your business serves. Watch this video for my quick tips!
1. Delight every person who contacts your business.
A conversation with a client or prospect is more than an opportunity to win business; it’s a chance to make someone’s day.
Be kind. Be authentic. Crack a joke, give a compliment, tell an interesting (brief and relevant) story, or hey, just listen. Many people don’t feel heard, and many of us could stand to listen more.
It’s incredibly easy to delight someone who contacts you—it can be as simple as saying their name back to them.
2. Ensure every client feels like your first priority.
Consider what your clients really want—and perhaps more importantly, what they don’t want.
For instance, they probably don’t want to reach an answering machine when they call you. They probably don’t want to wait longer than 24 hours for a response to an email. In fact, there’s a good chance their patience runs out after five minutes.
Make sure every touchpoint your business can control is built for a positive client experience. It might be a good idea to map the client journey and prioritize the channels where clients most often get in contact with you, such as your phone and your website.
3. Do what you’ll say you’ll do.
I’m sure you’re familiar with the old platitude: “underpromise and overdeliver.”
Know what’s better? Promising and delivering.
No over or under.
Here’s how Work Awesome explains it:
“While the short-term results of ‘underpromising and overdelivering’ look great, your clients might come to always expect super-fast, super-cheap work from you. Suddenly, the whole ‘managing expectations’ idea backfires completely; your client has learned to set them very high, and raise them each time you exceed your own self-set expectations. You’re caught up in a mess that you created.”
At Ruby, we’re big believers in doing what we say we’ll do. Consistency forms the foundation for great service and, ultimately, extraordinary experiences. Before you can wow people, you need to set and meet their expectations.
4. Choose your words carefully.
Words matter. That is, the various lexical units a member of our species may choose to deploy within a given conversational context tend to produce differing effects within the mind of the receiving party in said context. (See what I mean?) Words can clarify or obfuscate, comfort or alienate, gladden or sadden or frustrate or fascinate.
When talking to clients and prospective clients, use words that create connections. These include words and phrases like “please,” “thank you,” “certainly,” “absolutely,” “I’d be happy to,” and “How may I help you?”
Use words that serve people and move conversations forward. Avoid dead ends such as “I can’t” and “I don’t know.” Instead, try saying, “I’m happy to find that out for you,” or “That’s a great question! Let me think about it and get back to you.”
5. Use your website and digital tools wisely.
Your online presence is analogous to the front door and lobby of your business. For many people, your website and social media accounts are the initial and primary points of contact for your business. If they can’t find you, or if your online presence doesn’t deliver, you’ve missed out on making the right first impression. They’ve shown up to your office and found empty space where chairs and a front desk should be.
So, make sure your online presence a) appears in search results, and b) provides visitors with the answers and experience they’re looking for. Keep it up to date, easy to navigate, and full of useful information. (Not sure where to start? Download our guide.)
One underused tool for optimizing an online presence is chat. If your website is the lobby of your business, chat is the equivalent of someone at the front desk greeting visitors and answering questions. If live chat’s not right for your business, consider automated lead capture.
Remember: your well-being matters. As much as you try, you can’t please everyone.
Even when you do everything right, some clients may still find reasons to demand more from you. Don’t be afraid to kindly part ways with clients when necessary, and make sure to establish and maintain healthy boundaries with everyone you serve.
There’s no need to do this all yourself.
Delight everyone who contacts your business. Ruby is home to the friendliest, most capable client engagement professionals in the industry.
Ensure your clients experience the personalized service they deserve. Ruby answers phone calls and chats live, 24/7/365. You can set a custom greeting and detailed client engagement instructions.
Online and over the phone, we create genuine human connections that earn you trust. That trust translates into an endless source of recurring and referral business.
Plus, we offer tools you can use to qualify your leads, making it easy for you to connect with the right people at the right times.
Enjoy more time, less uncertainty, and greater capacity to grow your business—on your terms.