The “First-Date Effect”: Are you treating new clients like a long-term relationship, or a one-night stand?

Business partnerships, like any other relationship, can be very exciting in the beginning. You meet someone new, and the two of you click. You’re on the same page, you have the same vision…You just get one another. Contracts are signed, meetings are arranged and, for a while, the two of you work happily in sync.

Then, something happens. Maybe they’re your financial planner, and they stop answering your emails in a timely manner. Or your IT services provider shows up to your office dressed a bit more casually than you’re comfortable with. You ask your marketing representative whether you should re-design your logo or leave it as is and they respond with, “Oh, whatever you think is probably fine.”

When you first met, you fell in love with their customer service. But now? The thrill is gone, baby.

You don’t like being treated like a sure thing, so you know your customers don’t either. Here are some ways you can keep the spark alive with your clients so you know they’ll stay loyal to your business.

Stay in communication.

Let’s say you go out to dinner on a romantic date. You have a nice time, and think the other person did, too. You call them the next day and leave a voicemail thanking them and asking if they’d like to go out again sometime.

Then you wait. And wait. Three days later, you just get a text reading, “sure sounds good”.

You probably wouldn’t be too impressed. You definitely would feel like they were not as invested in the relationship as you. It’s the same way customers feel if you don’t respond to communications from them in a timely and appropriate manner. Some general rules:

1.) Respond via an appropriate medium. In other words, unless specifically indicated in the voicemail, don’t respond to a phone call with a text or email. If they consider an issue important enough to warrant a phone call, and you shoot back with a casual text or email, it implies that the problem isn’t as important to you as it is to them.

2.) Be timely. Don’t leave someone hanging, waiting for your response. Many business etiquette guides advise responding within 24 hours to all communications. Faster is even better. If you are trading emails with a client as the two of you collaborate on a project, don’t just log off at 5:00 and drop them until the next afternoon. If you have to attend to other business (even if that “business” is really just “having a personal life”), let them know that you have to run for a bit, and then resume communication with them as soon as you can the next morning.

3.) Be professional. This shouldn’t have to be said but, sadly, it still does. No matter how friendly your client is, no matter how much you like each other, your communication still has to be professional. Every email doesn’t have to include an attached notarized PDF copy in triplicate, but it does need to be free of spelling and grammatical errors. Taking the time to make sure your communications are professional is a sign of respect for your client.

While we are on the subject of professionalism…

Stay attractive.

One of the cliches of romantic comedies is a couple experiencing tension because of complacency in the relationship. At the beginning of the movie, when they fall in love, they go out to five-star restaurants in formal wear. The second act features them eating take-out on the couch in sweats.

When your customer service starts slipping, it is the metaphorical equivalent of you showing up to the client site, wearing sweat pants and eating pizza. (Also, please don’t literally show up wearing sweat pants and eating pizza, either.) If you don’t provide the same quality of service you did at the beginning, it makes your customer feel taken-for-granted, and like you misled them with false advertising.

Your business should always strive to grow and improve, and your customer service along with that. If you want to really shock your customers, surprise them by providing exceptional service, even above-and-beyond the high level they’ve come to expect from you.

Stay interested.

Nothing makes people like you more than when you make them feel attractive. Just like you try to remember your significant other’s birthday or favorite dessert, your clients will be flattered if you can remember the intimate details of their business. You do not want your client to have to remind you of items discussed at prior meetings, or current issues being faced. No matter the size of the company or how much income they bring you, you want each client to feel like they are at the forefront of your mind.

There are small things you can do to make your client feel significant. This could be something as small as tweeting them a relevant news article, or as large as arranging a referral meeting to help them earn new business. By going above-and-beyond the minimum which is required of you, you can help ensure a lasting client relationship to profit you both for the long-term.

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