Service: noun. “The action of helping or doing work for someone.”
Hospitality: noun. “The friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers.”
No matter your sector, almost all of us work in service to some degree: retail, construction, restaurants, public officials, banking, customer support, and many others including, yes, real estate. When it comes to real estate, it’s best to think of it as working in hospitality rather than service, especially considering the ways that forging new connections and client relationships has changed in recent years. Many people experience feelings of social disconnect, now more than ever, due to how much time we spend viewing life through the lens of social media and the internet in general.
Given the ways that social media and evolving technology are changing the way we think about meeting people and making friends, let’s take a look at a few ways to form stronger client relationships in 2023.
Focus on Hospitality
One way to strengthen relationships with potential clients is by reframing goals of excellence in service to excellence in hospitality. Hospitality is about creating genuine connections and making people feel great about working with you. Clients are happier when you are fully present with them in the moment. It’s also been shown that some clients are happier when you take an interest in them and their personal life, even if it means that the meeting may last a bit longer. By showing a genuine interest in your clients, you can create stronger, lasting relationships that could turn into referrals in the future.
This extends even to closing gifts. Sure, you could buy a client an expensive bottle of wine with your logo slapped on, but if you know they love curling up with a good book, wouldn’t a gift of a bestseller and a warm blanket be more fitting? Impressing a client with an expensive gift is just pricey, but providing them with something thoughtful and personal is absolutely priceless.
Use Technology to Create Stronger Client Relationships
Frequently, the time saved by technology is not used to strengthen our bonds with our clients but is rather seen as an opportunity to serve another client, which we’re bound to do less than excellently due to the constraints of time and ability. Rather than using technology as a means to meet more clients, try thinking of ways to use technology to improve and strengthen existing relationships!
One great way to stay connected with clients is by sending them personalized messages for events like birthdays, new babies, and holidays. There are a variety of services available that can automate these messages to ensure that you’ll never miss an important event in the lives of your clients.
In this way, technology can be a powerful tool in creating new client relationships, and while it’s great to leverage the technology at hand to automate the numbers and reports and to encourage new connections, remember that a connection that you don’t actually connect with is a lost opportunity.
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
The number one complaint any customer or client typically has about the person they’re working with is a lack of communication. Either they can’t get a hold of the professional, the professional doesn’t proactively contact the client, or the professional speaks in terms that the client can’t understand.
It’s important to initiate communication with clients and set up reasonable expectations for that communication. In the interest of preserving your sense of peace as well as the client’s, try establishing general working hours, ie “I am available from 8am-6pm Monday through Friday and before noon on Saturday. I am unable to respond to emails and calls at other times.” You and your other responsibilities and interests will suffer if you’re constantly on-call.
Likewise, the client will appreciate knowing when they can count on being able to reach out and hear back. In addition to this, communicate in the way that the client prefers. This may mean sending emails instead of giving them a call, but they’ll feel respected when their preferred mode is used and will be more receptive to what you’re imparting to them.
Scheduling recurring calls or meetings with clients on a basis that works for both of you, whether it’s weekly, monthly, or otherwise, is another great tip. Have an agenda (it doesn’t have to be formal!) of what you want to go over to ensure the meeting is productive. This will also be the client’s opportunity to raise any topic they need to.
When meeting, turn your phone on silent and focus fully on the client. Speak in terms they understand, and never assume that they don’t have questions. Asking “What questions do you have for me?” gives the client the sense that you expect they’ll have questions. As opposed to asking, “Do you have any questions?”, which can make them feel uncomfortable asking them.
Client Relationships Are a Marathon, Not a Sprint
Building and maintaining the reputation of a professional who is purpose-driven, communicative, and savvy is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s not just about hanging on to a client but providing them with an experience that makes them hold you and your services as the standard, and share their positive experiences with others. That experience, plus the referrals and additional business you’ll receive as a result, makes it all worthwhile.
If you’d like to learn more about creating stronger client relationships, check out these books: