- Kevin Monaghan, Assoc. AIA
Strategies to Build Trust and Client Loyalty
Updated: Oct 6, 2022
Consultants start every new project feeling the same way one might feel at the beginning of a new personal relationship. There is excitement, awkwardness, newness - an opportunity for a fresh start. However, when beginning a new project with a longstanding client there is often a familiarity that is comforting that comes from a reassurance that you must have done something right on the last project.
Achieving this level of comfort and trust is important. How did we get to this point in the relationship? How did we build trust? It is not easy! But it can be done.
This is a picture of my dog Shelby Lynn. What can you gather from her photo? Do you know that she has twelve years of experience in training us and that she gets whatever she wants 99% of the time? Yes, can be demanding and comes with the trauma associated with being a rescue. But she is loyal to us, and we are loyal to her. How is that any different from the work we do every day with our clients? Below are some steps you can take to help building client trust and loyalty.
Get past the awkward.
When you start any project with a new client there is always an awkward “get to know you” period. Break the ice beyond asking about their day or commenting on the weather. Some people hit if off right away, while other clients take more time to get comfortable with you. Work at getting to know your client’s preferences for reporting and the level of detail they expect. Attention to those tiny details help build trust.
Build the right team.
Project Managers are important, but it takes a village to get a project over the finish line; and the people you select to be on your team are important. Picking the right team to back up what you promised matters. Sounds simple but people have different management skills, personalities and clients notice and give feedback.
Deliver on your promises.
You can’t be everywhere, or everything to everyone. You can build trust by doing what you promised to do and holding your team accountable to do the same.
Mentor the next team.
Training, mentoring, and promoting a team member is one of the most critical aspects of what we do. Preparing a new staff member to represent you in front of client that has been your contact, your responsibility is something that should keep you up at night. Praise is easy to accept on their behalf. Course correction, although necessary, is very tough. Be available to mentor until your client starts to request them instead of you. What better compliment is there?
Prepare your client and your team for the handoff.
When your staff “have it covered”, it is time to let go. The client has already begun to trust your team, but remember to stay in touch, as they will still want to hear from you. They know that if a difficult discussion needs to be had, you are there.
HBS is successful because we can see the big picture at 30,000 feet and know exactly what needs to be done on the granular level. We have a phrase, “all hands-on deck”. That means exactly what we say. At the end of the project and prior to the opening of a facility, we put out the call company wide. Everyone is there to support the team, not matter the title or job description or if they even worked on the project. They drop everything and answer. Our depth and breadth of staff allows us to help our clients meet their aspirational goals while also providing a detailed occupancy checklist that identifies three missing critical items that could impact regulatory approval.
Our goal is to build a level of trust with every client and enjoy a business relationship that lasts over multiple projects. We want them to know that we are loyal to them and in turn appreciate their loyalty to us. A lot like the relationship I have with Shelby Lynn.