How to build successful client relationships remotely

Here at Word Monster, we have a secret: we’re actually in committed relationships with hundreds of people whom we’ve never physically met before. We must say, it’s a difficult and delicate balancing act; we can’t have everyone on the go at the same time. Some people need our undivided attention, while others come, get what they need, and go. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and these periods of ‘alone time’ offer us the opportunity to explore more new and exciting relationships.

Some people would view the lack of face-to-face time as a disappointment, but we’ve found a situation that works for everyone involved, and means we can stay in our pyjamas all day too (although we strongly advise against this).

Before we get into a debate about the ethics of polyamory (and someone calls our respective partners to warn them about what we’ve been up to), we should probably clarify one thing: the people we’re referring to above are our clients and the relationships we mention are strictly professional.

As an agency that largely supports other agencies themselves, building solid client relationships is just as important as delivering quality work. Our aim is to make our clients’ lives easier and alleviate the (often heavy) burden on their shoulders, and it’s impossible to do that unless they trust us to. But how to build that trust? Ensuring that we Write With Bite is absolutely a (big) part of it, but there’s so much more. With that in mind, we’ve taken a step back and jotted down how we build great client relationships without ever having to step a foot through an office door:

Be proactive in your communications

Never underestimate the importance of good communications. Proactivity is key to this. Nobody wants to be seen as twiddling their thumbs when there’s work to be done. And chances are, your client has a thousand and one things on their mind and is looking to you to take the lead. Check in frequently with your client – whether it’s keeping them updated of your progress, chasing for the next brief, or flagging any potential delays or pitfalls you see looming on the horizon. Which leads nicely to point number two…

Be transparent

If something isn’t quite going to plan – flag it. If something needs clarification – ask. In the same way you wouldn’t expect your clients to be able to read your mind, they won’t expect you to read theirs. The more transparent you are, the less likely there are to be any hiccups down the road. ‘Nuff said.

Be more than an email address

This one is nuanced. Yes, where opportunity permits (and you’re not just being a nuisance), it’s definitely worth having a conversation with your client outside of email – be it the phone, Skype, Zoom, whatever. Anything that allows them to put a voice or a face to a name only serves to make you more ‘human’. However, this obviously isn’t always possible, particularly when time is such a precious commodity; let’s face it, emails probably form >80% of all our work comms. In this case, it’s about taking small actions that allow you to be seen as more than just an email address that churns out work. And it can be as simple as taking a moment to ask your client how their weekend was or making the effort to jot down your thinking and rationale behind your approach to a particular brief – all of these things will only serve to further humanise you, allowing your client to get to know the writer behind the words.

Treat your clients as individuals

Each client has a different way of working, and it’s important to take the time to understand what that is to ensure you’re working in the way most suitable for them. Some clients prefer to have you hidden away as an invisible pair of helping hands, others prefer to keep you up front and centre within their own teams. Either way works for us but obviously requires different approaches. Similarly, some clients are happy to thrash out briefs over the phone every single time, while others would simply prefer you to crack on with the project (unless, of course, you have a question). Everyone is different, and that’s true of agencies too. Take the time to get to know your client.

Add value wherever possible

This one overlaps neatly with the previous point. While it’s true that some clients will only want you to focus on the task at hand, the majority will always appreciate some added value. This can be as simple as recommending additional updates that you feel are needed on a piece you’ve been working on, or thinking about how changes to an eDetail you’ve been working on this week may affect that animation you were working on last week. If you notice something that’s going to save your client some hassle, then it’s always worth piping up.

Own your mistakes and be open to feedback

Making mistakes is inevitable: we’re only human. What really matters though, is how we deal with them. If you’ve noticed something isn’t quite right, speak up rather than waiting to see if your client notices – they’ll appreciate your honesty. And if they bring it to your attention first, then it’s always important to try and understand what went wrong and how you could do better next time. Asking for feedback shouldn’t only happen when mistakes have been made, it should ideally occur throughout a working relationship in order to strengthen that relationship. If you’re lucky enough to have a client who takes the time to share their feedback after reviewing your work, then the least you can do is take the time to digest it and think about how to take it on board to become an even better writer.

Be patient

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and the same is certainly true of successful working relationships. Points 1 to 5 are probably key to establishing a solid foundation for that relationship, and means that when a mistake is made, it is less likely to rock the boat and you will also feel more comfortable asking for feedback and using it to become a better writer (as per point 6). All relationships require time, so why should our working ones be any different?

And there you have it. Go get ‘em tiger. Happy relationship building 😊.