Client Management: A Complete Guide With Tips
Many businesses rely on continued support from clients to operate successfully. Client management refers to building a strong, trusting connection with clients. To practice effective client management, it can be beneficial to learn how to structure your retention strategy and understand the benefits of prioritizing client satisfaction. In this article, we discuss client management and its importance and explain major client management principles, what a client manager does and how to implement an effective client management strategy.
What is client management?
Client management is the practice of maintaining a positive relationship with a company's clients. It involves coordinating and managing interactions between a client and the organization and has a major impact on a company’s reputation and its ability to retain and gain new clients. When the client feels satisfied, the company is more likely to retain its business.
Client management can be broken down into four distinct parts:
Understanding your client’s needs and what they want from you
Delivering on those requirements and responding promptly to their questions
Anticipating the needs of the client before they ask for something
Focusing on targeted communications that highlight the needs of the client
Benefits of client management
Client management is important for preserving good standing with the customers, clients and businesses you serve. A client confident in your work will trust you to deliver a quality product or service. They can perceive your team and company as credible and professional, one that cares about the client's expectations.
Client management can also help you attract more clients to your organization. Individuals who value your services and how you treat them may refer your company to people in their network, leading to increased brand recognition. The more clients you have, the more your business can grow. Consider solidifying your client management techniques with your current clientele. You can learn how to meet their needs efficiently, enabling you to work with multiple organizations as your clientele expands.
Related: What Is Client-Centricity?
Client management principles
Several basic principles help guide organizations that perform good client management. Three major principles of client management include:
Being transparent means being straightforward and honest when interacting with your client. Transparency can help you avoid misinformation that might lead your client to form an incorrect interpretation of the relationship with your business. You’ll also need to make the project parameters very clear and give the client all the information they need to know.
Example: Perhaps a client you serve expresses they want to receive the final product by the end of the month. As the project manager, you believe the deadline is too soon to guarantee the quality of the project so you are transparent with the client about your concerns, which helps you work together to find a solution.
Being in constant contact with your client will help you be transparent about your progress. Before you start the project, confer with your client to decide their preferred method of communication such as email, phone calls or in-person meetings. It’s always a good idea to follow up any phone or in-person chats with an email detailing what was covered so there is a written recap of what was discussed. Consider allowing the client to decide how often you communicate and respond timely when they contact you. Here are examples of occasions where it may be necessary to interact with the client:
Before the project begins: You and the client meet through video conferencing or in person to discuss the purpose of the project and their ideal results. Thorough communication can also help you convince clients to choose your business for their needs over competitors.
During the project: The client may request that you give them regular updates about the progress of the project. For example, if there is an unforeseen circumstance, such as inclement weather or labor shortage, you can explain how the situation can change deadlines and your efforts to resolve the issue.
After you deliver the final product: At this stage, the client may give your team feedback on the product you created to help you improve your work style for the future.
Alignment contributes to the strength of the client-company relationship. It ensures the interests of the client match what the company can deliver. As a project manager, it might be beneficial to determine alignment before you agree to a new task. You can have confidence that your team's skillset and schedule availability can meet the client's expectations. Using transparent communication can allow you to discern alignment.
Client management responsibilities
In smaller organizations, client management might be assigned to a project manager. In many companies, a client manager, also known as a client relations manager, communicates and works with clients. Client managers take part in everything from account planning to client satisfaction surveys.
Here are some tasks that client managers perform regularly:
Act as the primary connection between the organization and the client
Build relationships with clients and client staff
Work with internal teams to help serve clients
Identify trends in a client’s industry
Find patterns in client feedback through satisfaction surveys
Anticipate challenges and assess risks for projects
Guide clients on buying decisions
Find opportunities for new work
Client management best practices
To build a client management technique, follow these steps:
1. Know what the client needs
The initial step to meeting the client's objectives is to understand what they envision for the final product. During your first meeting, be transparent when discussing how the client's expectations align with your team’s capabilities. Learn what your client wants to achieve as a result of the product you're creating.
Example: If you work on a software development team, the goal of your client is to design a computer application that appeals to older adults and encourages them to become more acquainted with new technology.
2. Create a clear outline
The second step is to determine the steps your team will take to complete the project by outlining your detailed strategy for accomplishing the client's goal. An outline can include a timeline of when you plan to start the project and when you expect to deliver it, which you can use to negotiate your deadlines with the client. Having a clear outline can show your preparedness for launching a project and organizational skills.
3. Update the client on progress
It's essential to keep the client informed about your advancement on the assignment. Reserve time at consistent intervals to speak with the client directly about what you've accomplished so far and what's next on the agenda. The frequency of your updates can depend on the client's interests and the complexity of your project. Regular updates about your progress can show your dedication to meeting their needs, and you can maintain their confidence in the productivity of your team.
Example: If the project lasts several weeks, you might decide to schedule a meeting with the client once every two weeks to explain your progress, or you can send a message after you've completed a milestone.
4. Document every step of the project
Documentation refers to records of every task you complete for the client. Records can help you avoid discrepancies between your work and your client agreement. Consider documenting the dates of when you began the assignment along with challenges you faced and changes you've made as you made progress. Your notes can provide a reference of what you've achieved so far, which can be helpful if your assignment is extensive. You’ll also create records you can review later when you take on similar projects.
Read more: 3 Reasons Why Documentation Is Important
5. Apply the client's feedback
As you make progress on your assignment, the client might offer constructive criticism on how to improve your work. Applying their feedback can illustrate your commitment to delivering a product that meets their needs. Ask questions to gain clarification on what the client wants and strategize with your team on ways to achieve their vision. If the client issues feedback after the completion of the project, you can record their feedback to fulfill future requests.
Read more: Top Strategies for Managing Clients
Client management pitfalls to avoid
Here are common pitfalls to avoid when learning how to manage clients:
Not prioritizing clients: While you may feel pressure to constantly bring in new clients, it’s important to prioritize existing clients. If you don’t schedule time to attend to your current clients, you risk missing opportunities to upsell or your clients leaving for competitors.
Not listening to clients’ needs: Client managers who try to sell clients new services or products without making meaningful connections won’t be able to develop lasting client relationships. Listen to your clients’ goals and what they actually need.
Not being organized: Keep everyone in your organization updated on each client by using a client relationship management (CRM) system. They should know the status of a current project, goals and all recent communications for every client.
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