As with all relationships, communication is key when building a strong working environment with your client. Here are a few points that might help with building strong client relationships.
Outline/Rundown of Project
Being a strong project manager is one of the most important areas to fostering a trusting environment for your client. Having an overall plan, sharing with them the steps you have in place and what things will look like (ideally) along the way will show them you know what you are doing and will have it under control. For most people in business, being able to trust you enough to hand over a project and knowing it will get done on time and correctly is something that will make you invaluable to them.
Giving your client a clue to where you are at with a project can help ease some angst on their end, especially with tight and critical deadlines. Most likely, if they are needing to meet a deadline and are stressed about meeting it, you can help relieve some of this by sending a note letting them know exactly where you and/or your team is at as an update. It’s calming on the nerves to know the wheels are in motion and your project is in the works and progress is being made.
Be upfront with any issues which may slow down progress
Some projects will hum along with no issues, stress or drama. And then there are the ones that seem to go sideways from day one, no matter how well you’ve tired to planned. Some of the most stressful projects that you manage, after making it though the craziness and delivering for the client, create a trust that never would have been if it weren’t for the “proof” that you have the creativity, stamina and drive to deliver under the most undesirable circumstances. It’s worth it to give it your all and pull from wherever you can to be able to bring it together. This is where solid relationships with co-workers, contractors and suppliers are vital as well.
Have a number of solutions to offer
When these hellish projects appear, making you wish you could fast forward to next week, it is your job to be the problem solver. Don’t leave your client hanging, feeling like they need to fix the problem for you. Always try to have a possible solution or two in your back pocket to offer. Even if you think something might work to fix the issue, have another ready in the wings. This shows that you are thinking ahead, showing that you are present, willing and able to deal with the issues that may come up.
Listening is a skill that many take a long time to learn. The earlier you learn to listen to what the client is and isn’t saying, the more inline you will be in delivering what they want. It’s so frustrating when one tries to share their vision, plan and focus only to be interrupted by someone jumping in and assuming they can finish the thought. Most often than not, you can pick up on things that they haven’t spoken in words when you listen how they explain things. Body language is also a key to understanding what someone means. If your client doesn’t feel like you are listening to what they are saying, you will, in some respect, begin to lose trust.
Wrapping it up
After you have completed your project and it has been delivered, this is a perfect time to briefly recap and review the project and it’s ups and downs. Ask how they felt the process went with the pretense of “Next time…” , were they happy with the way any issues were handled, anything that they would have done differently? This doesn’t need to be a lengthy process, but more so they feel like their satisfaction with your service is important to you. A happy client is a consistent client!