Client Success 101: Building Strong, Personal Relationships

March 29, 2017 Christian York
Building Strong and Personal Relationships With CustomersThere are many pieces of advice I’ve given to others when posed with questions such as: “How should I start a Client Success team at my business?” or “What should I look for when hiring my first CSM?”. Each piece of advice I give is predicated on one of the many unique facets of this new and wonderful business unit we all call ‘Client Success’. What I’d like to focus on in this post is just one of those pieces of advice and, naturally, it is my favourite one:

You must build strong, personal relationships with your clients.  

“Duh!! This is obvious; thanks for the non-advice!” I believe the biggest fallout of the ‘digital age’ for businesses is that while we can now communicate with others faster and more efficiently than ever before, we are doing so with less care. It’s the classic problem of quality vs. quantity. While arguments may vary for differing business models, I’m a strong believer in quality over quantity when it comes to Client Success. Without going into why (perhaps a topic for a future blog post) here are my four tips for how to build strong, personal relationships with your clients.


1. Be friendly… ridiculously friendly!

“Again, giving us an obvious piece of advice!” Yes, but it’s one thing to be friendly face-to-face or over the telephone, but I stress: you must maintain this level of geniality even in the most insignificant of interactions (read: email replies, LinkedIn messages, texts, etc.).

If you want to stand out from the 83 other people your client interacts with on a day-to-day basis, then DO IT.

Don’t skip the cordialities you would offer in person when you are replying to an email. Take the time to write “Hope you’re well” before answering a client’s question. Include a smiley face or an exclamation point, every now and then! :) Seriously, most businesses lose sight of these personal touches as they scale and it makes a world of difference.


2. Get to know your clients; learn their hobbies and passions.

People love to talk about themselves: this is a fact of life, so take advantage of it!

Did a client mention that they went hiking this past weekend? Did they talk about how their baseball team lost a huge game last night? If so, you’ve got a legitimate goldmine of future talking points and gifting ideas (we’ll come back to this later) to explore! If not, start asking them: “What did you get up to this weekend?”, or “Did you see last night’s [insert their local sports team here] game?”

Even if you don’t get much of a response, you’ll at least know which subjects don’t interest them for future conversations. Keep at it, and you will eventually discover what they DO like to talk about, and once you do, you’ll become more than a vendor - you’ll become somebody they enjoy chatting with too.


3. Be more than an advocate for your clients.

While this tip may appear to suggest the most subtle of actions, it is perhaps is the most important to implement if you’re looking to turn clients into evangelists of your business. The tip is simply this: act as if you are employed by your client. Of course, this advice must be taken with a grain of salt - at the end of the day, you are ultimately responsible for the success of your business. That said, when engaging with clients, do the best you can to position yourself as a part of their team.

Here’s one example: a client has come to you with a bug report and you need to escalate it to the development team. When you reply to the client to confirm the escalation, position yourself on their team by saying: “Thanks for letting me know about this! I’ve escalated it to the development team and will update you as soon as they have a resolution for us.”

Another example: a client has come to you with a feature request that you believe is legitimate. Reply with: “That’s a wonderful idea! I’m going to share this with the Director of Product and see what she can do for us!” Repeated over time, these subtle nuances in your communication really will show your clients that you are on their side.


4. Don’t just serve clients, delight them!

I believe every Client Success team should define their culture and align all of their processes with a set of pillars. These pillars should encompass the core values that your CS team delivers to your company’s clients. Kira Talent’s pillars are: Educate, Inspire and Delight.

Regardless of your business model, if you have the need for a Client Success team, one of their pillars must be to delight. Delight comes in many forms, gifting for example, and can be as expensive or inexpensive as you like! At Kira, we have a dedicated gifting program that delivers goodies to clients at certain milestones of their client lifecycle. I’ve found that the most appreciated ‘delight touch-points’ are the random, unscheduled ones that simply show we listen and we care.

Here’s one of my favourite stories: one of my first clients at Kira was emailing me with a question and started her email with: “Happy Wednesday!” Keeping in line with tips 1. and 2., I asked her what she had going on this particular Wednesday. She replied that Wednesday was her favourite day of the week because Survivor was on TV. I thought this was an awesome opportunity to surprise and delight so I ordered and had sent to her a Survivor Buff (something only Survivor nerds would appreciate - I know, I count myself among them). She was thrilled when it arrived and even took a photo of herself wearing it and shared it with the Kira team! Delighting clients can be as simple as this example, but I guarantee it will leave a lasting impression of friendliness and warmth.


Thank you for taking the time to read this post, I hope it helps you along the path to building strong, personal relationships with your valued clients!

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About the Author

Christian York

Christian leads the Client Success team at Kira Talent, a SaaS start-up in Toronto that helps higher-ed admissions find the best students. Kira Talent recently closed a $5 million Series A and are closing in on 30 employees.

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