Think about a deep relationship you have with someone. Why does it stand out and what attributes of that relationship set it apart from other connections you have? Now recall how those attributes were developed over time.
At UDig, we focus on Meaningful Relationships as one of our brand promises. We’ve spent some time reflecting on how we’re able to successfully deliver on this promise and discuss a handful of internal best practices we follow to help cultivate and maintain deep-rooted, meaningful relationships with our clients.
As the basis for any relationship, clear and concise communication is essential. We strive to make communicating with our teams easy and comfortable. We typically partner with our clients to create a communications/engagement model at the onset of an engagement. This is a great way to identify and document the client’s preferred method for communication while also helping to highlight the proper escalation channels for both parties. It exhibits that we’re committed to sharing information in whatever way suits them best. This can be formal or informal but should be easily accessible for both parties if needed.
- Learn their preferred method for communications.
- Communicate early and often.
- Listen more than you speak.
- Use body language to show that you are actively listening.
- Ensure you are capturing all requests accurately by writing them down and then repeating back what you heard.
Another step we feel is important in building meaningful relationships with our customers is immersing ourselves in their organization. We understand that often times projects are simply inputs into a broader goal; during the initial phases of each engagement, we take the time to learn the client’s business, culture, competitors, and industry landscape. This approach helps us gain a better understanding for the problem(s) or gap(s) the project aims to address, while also improving our understanding of how the solution will fit into their overall business strategy. Taking that a step further, we understand that each client has their own culture and company values that influence the way they work. Learning those values positions us to make more effective recommendations and help solve their toughest challenges without veering from their ethos. We have found that this approach creates a relationship that is mutually beneficial for both parties as it often leads to additional opportunities to help reach our client’s most ambitious goals.
- Demonstrate that we understand their industry, competitive landscape, biggest challenges and top priorities.
- Adopt their culture and function as an extension of their team. Show them that their problems are our problems, and that we will work tirelessly until they are resolved.
- Make recommendations that fit into their larger company goals and initiatives; commit to tailoring solutions to align to their values and corporate identity.
Establishing clear communication channels and taking the time to understand our client’s values, culture, and business goals is top priority for us which helps provide a runway for effective collaboration with our client teams. In our experience, fostering an open, friendly environment where teams can share ideas, provide different perspectives, and learn from each other’s experiences often leads to the best results. Whether it’s an in-person/group ideation session or conference call, we have a wide range of tools and techniques that aide in leveraging each team members strengths, driving innovation, and encouraging out-of-the box thinking to meet our client’s goals and objectives. UDig’s brand promise of Shared Outcomes is best displayed through our practice of involving our clients in each stage of the project to help ensure we deliver lasting value to the organization. Shared Outcomes speaks to the way we partner with our clients and the mutual investment we have in our clients’ success.
- Be flexible and willing to pivot if/when necessary.
Show them that they are important.
We have found that creating regular check-ins with our clients (even when not requested) is a great way of keeping all stakeholders aligned and it encourages transparency. While it’s easier to touch base via email, we opt for in–person meetings when possible. During these check-ins, we make time to answer any/all questions they may have and request their honest feedback. Any input we receive is then shared with our team. Most importantly, if a client highlights an area for improvement, we work with the team to ensure that they take the appropriate action and demonstrate our ability to adjust accordingly. The better aligned our service delivery is to the client’s expectations, the more productive the relationship will be. Additionally, we make time to build a personal connection with them whenever possible. Shared experiences are one of the best ways to build relationships, so when possible, we take them out and have fun while getting to know a little more about them.
- In today’s world, it’s easy to become distracted; ensure that you always follow-up as promised, no matter what.
- Always make time for your clients no matter how busy you are.
- When interacting with clients, put all digital devices away and be present.
- Empathize with the client. Be sincere and most importantly, listen to their problems/challenges. Repeat back to them what you heard to ensure you have an accurate understanding.
- Make sure you embody a “client-first” mindset.
Trust is a critical element in developing meaningful relationships, which is why we aim to create rapport and build trust with our clients from the onset of each engagement. One of the ways we do this is through setting expectations around how we communicate, collaborate, and deliver solutions and then execute on those expectations. If we say we are going to do something, we do it, period. At UDig, we believe that consistent, quality delivery along with dependable, trustworthy consultants are required to create a lasting partnership. We also understand that delivering bad news is sometimes part of an engagement as well. When issues arise, we tackle them head-on and communicate to our customers as soon as possible. By providing complete transparency into the status of our projects, we earn and build trust with our clients as they know they can count on our honesty.
- Be consistent.
- Present quality deliverables on time.
- Honor time commitments/constraints.
- Own up to mistakes.
- Communicate early and often.
- Always find ways to provide value, even when it is unexpected.
While the items highlighted above are by no means exhaustive of everything to keep in mind when we try to develop relationships, they provide some important guideposts to help frame the way we approach our interactions with internal and external stakeholders. More art than science, it is essential to understand that the unique characteristics of individuals will have an impact on how each relationship develops and evolves over time. Although there can be some gray areas, adhering to shared values helps establish legitimacy as a trusted advisor.