The Future Of Client Relationship Management

Aggie Dawborn
Head of Technology, Media and Telecommunications at Google Marketing Platform

What challenges have you seen emerge as client relationships are managed primarily through digital channels?

Sales and Account Management have always been people-focused businesses and great relationship building is an essential foundation to becoming a trusted advisor.  Most of us have had to shift these skills into the 2D world of video calls, which brought on more challenges than we anticipated in the last few years. Whether you are customer-facing or joining a new company or team, those serendipitous moments that occur when walking to get a cup of coffee between meetings have gone - leaving very little time for natural human connection. Body language is harder to interpret, calls have stricter agendas and 'fun team events' are certainly not as inspirational when stuck behind a screen. It also forces you to be much more organised with your time as you can easily end up spending four hours in back to back half-hour calls, meaning no time to reflect and note down action points.

What are the pitfalls that stop teams from providing a great client service that can be avoided?

Teams can become so focused on delivering the task at hand that they forget to actively listen to the customer. We can all relate to the want and need of nailing a message before the end of client interaction, but sometimes it can cause us to completely miss a customer's core goal or business objective.  When you spend your time trying to think of an answer to a question while a customer is speaking rather than simply listening, you can miss the underlying message. Great client management is just as much about knowing when a solution is the wrong thing for our customers and being brave enough to decline an opportunity for the health of your long-term relationship.

In your experience, what are some best practices for teams that manage client relationships?

Listening with intent, focusing on building trust and rapport, taking effective action points after each interaction, being timely with responses and being empowered to say no when you have to.

Are there ways you would like to see AI solutions advance relationship management and how companies optimise client retention and growth?

In this new hybrid world that we find ourselves working in, scheduling internal meetings across diaries has become a very complex challenge. Knowing what is top of mind for your customer so it can be referenced at the start of your next interaction will make your time together efficient and results-oriented. Also, notetaking should find common themes in each interaction that you can build upon for your particular company's key milestones and KPIs.

How can you make an organisation more client-centric so that all teams are vested in client results?

Ask your customers what matters to them! How often do companies do this, rather than just assume? Speak to them and ask them how they'd like to be serviced. When you get your results, adapt your teams to work in a way that lends itself to this. Don't overthink it.

Client management teams are notoriously busy; managing lots of clients with lots of workstreams and having to interact with lots of different teams. How do you keep teams from burning out?

Encourage your teams to put focus weeks or days into their diary, away from meetings so that they can focus on their core work. Empower them to ask if holding a meeting on a topic is really necessary or if it can quickly be discussed on chat or on email. Finally, encourage your teams to use their annual leave, it's there for a reason. You are more productive long term if you rest!

Lastly, for anyone starting a career in Client Management, what would be your advice to them?

To start with, listen more and talk less. Be curious. Find a mentor and read content and articles about the things that matter to your customer or client. You will need to earn your place as an advisor and partner to your client, so don't rush it. Clients respect those who say 'I actually do not know, let me come back to you with the correct answer' more than those who quickly skim across an important topic to avoid losing face.

You got this.