Advice on strengthening client relationships during lockdown

Leah Andrew
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How do you Strengthen existing client relationships during a lockdown?

Maintaining strong client relationships during Covid has been a challenge for many businesses, both large and small. How do you continue to build relationships when your typical tactics are no longer available to you? Although we did enjoy some freedom to meet in socially distanced ways over the summer months, in many parts of Canada, we are now back in lockdown. That means we are back to 100% virtual client interactions.

So, I posed this question “How are you building trust with new and existing clients/colleagues during COVID?” to a group of trusted colleagues. I received amazing feedback. Through it, I identified 4 ways to build trust on the path to securing new business. Their feedback to my question also yielded five insights into how they were strengthening existing client relationships. I wanted to share these ideas given our current circumstances.

5 Ways to Strengthen Trust in Existing Client Relationships

1. Trust through regular and consistent communication:

One of the consistent tips I heard from many colleagues was the importance of upping the frequency of communication with clients. Investment Counselor Koel Loyer says “Calls, emails, more regular market updates and newsletters etc. but mainly by phone or zoom so that we’re actually in touch. Then I can ask lots of questions, really get to know what they’re worried about and how we can help them.”

Rob Beyer, an impact investment expert, echoes this. “Covid has given us an opportunity to increase our commitment to communicating with stakeholders in a timely way, which also goes a long way to building trust.”

"Covid has given us an opportunity to increase our commitment to communicating with stakeholders in a timely way, which also goes a long way to building trust."

Rob Beyer, Impact Investor, Villgro Africa

2. Trust through listening:

Much has been written about how important active listening is at any time, not just during a pandemic. Active listening requires our full concentration and engagement, as opposed to just passively hearing what the person is saying. Aileen Crowne, an executive and leadership coach shares: “I practice active or empathetic listening. As Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People explained, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” The intent to understand continues to be a critical factor and can be done both in virtual and in person meetings.”

"I practice active or empathetic listening. The intent to understand continues to be a critical factor and can be done both in virtual and in person meetings.”

Aileen Crowne, Executive Coach

Beyond active listening, empathetic listening is also important (and always has been). Rob Beyer accurately identified that “all our lives are “upside down” from our normal routines, many dramatically so. Most of my meetings now start with what is going on with Covid in peoples geographic areas or within our own families/companies, Covid has given us the opportunity to take our relationships to a deeper level as we empathize with each other over how we are coping and navigate these times – which can be vitally important to build trust.”

3. Trust through flexibility:

I’m sure everyone one of us has a bit of a love/hate relationship with working from home. The flexibility is great in many respects. However, it also minimizes the divide between work life and home life, particularly for those with kids. Audrey Kwan, a business and process improvement consultant comments: “I’ve noticed that my clients have much more unpredictable schedules with school situations changing on the fly. As a result, I’ve decided to accommodate with more flexibility on re-scheduling meetings. I’ve found that it’s this willingness to meet people where they are at right now that I believe creates trust.”

"I've decided to accommodate with more flexibility on re-scheduling meetings. I’ve found that it's this willingness to meet people where they are at right now that I believe creates trust.

Audrey Kwan, Business-Scaling Systems Strategist, AJK Consulting

4. Trust through shared goals:

I’ve often found that when a team is working towards a shared goal, trust gets built very quickly. Tarun Tripathi, a brand and culture expert echoed this idea, saying that when “the goals have been very clear, milestones setup, and I’ve been able to be proactive in updating and communicating – not necessarily through live meetings but through emails and recorded video – then trust is very strong”.

"When “the goals have been very clear, milestones setup, and I’ve been able to be proactive in updating and communicating, then trust is very strong”

Tarun Tripathi, Chief Strategy Officer, Only Much Louder

5. Trust through humour:

Humour is an underrated skill in my humble opinion. I definitely tried to bring a dose of humour to every meeting. For example, we recently took a moment to appreciate a team member’s movember mustache. I find things like this break the ice and ease us into conversation. In fact, this use of humour has rubbed off on one of our client’s holiday gifts this year. They are delivering “COVID cookies” to their clients as a way to wish them happy holidays. 

Heather Bordo also mentioned the importance of humour in building trust. She is “trying to bring more humour and levity to interactions. COVID has underscored what really matters – and allowed for less seriousness about what matters less.”

What other ways are you strengthening existing client relationships? Let me know @andrewperrymktg!

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