Published May 18, 2022
A critical component of successful client relationships is trust, and scaling trust in new relationships is more challenging through digital channels. Our ability to connect meaningfully can often be constrained without real-life interactions, which is a major challenge in creating authentic and trusting relationships with your clients.
Firstly, there needs to be a rigorous understanding and agreement on both the objectives and what great performance looks like from the provider - although, it must be noted that these two things do not always align. This requires accounting for conflicting agendas, and the needs of client-side stakeholders that the provider may never meet.
To speak further on the objectives - I think it’s important to define the "why" behind those objectives on both organisational and individual client-side, and to communicate this effectively to all provider-side stakeholders involved in delivery.
There also needs to be a way to optimise the process of keeping clients in the loop - and this should receive advance attention. I’d advise working with clients to agree on how to most effectively communicate progress. The distress of uncertainty can lead to undeserved negative assessments of delivered work merely because the client wasn't updated often enough.
There should be an AI solution to assess briefs and client onboarding records, which will identify gaps and make recommendations on information to be solicited or clarified - this is something that should be done for all client communications. It would be great if there was a way to identify information that should be shared with specific stakeholders, and to make this easy to do so. Having a way to automate client updates through AI would also certainly advance relationship management.
Contextualise success in relation to client objectives in ways that are specifically relevant to the priorities of different divisions of your organisation involved in delivery. Folks should understand how their smaller concentric circle wins in relation to the things that matter to them.
Burn-out teams are a consequence of poor leadership and a lack of adequate resourcing. It is the responsibility of business leaders to ensure that resourcing is commensurate with objectives and that the team in question are equipped and able to do the job requested well.
To start, focus on developing your proficiency as a benign interrogator. Think of yourself as a journalist or private investigator almost, on a mission to dig deep into the underlying needs and motivations of the system of client-side stakeholders.
It’s worth remembering that client success isn't about always giving the client what they want. The customer isn't always right and they're not the most important stakeholder group. You and your fellow team members are at least equally important. Your aim is to identify trade-ons between the best interests of your company and your client. Trade-offs should be the exception, not the rule, even when there's conflict or concession. Those are inevitable. Remember, a good negotiation means everyone feels like they won - or at least, no one feels like they lost.