When I was a client-side researcher (not so long ago) there was a vendor who would leave me long rambling voicemail messages. Not being a phone person and having told them I preferred email, this used to annoy me to no end. So when I switched to the provider side I vowed to apply these learning experiences to improve my client relationships.
It goes without saying that clients want top notch work - expertly planned, flawlessly executed, and actionable. But there are other important factors essential to maximizing client satisfaction that may seem obvious but are often neglected by research providers. (And that we at CMB try really hard to live up to.)
- Communicate via the mode most preferred by the client: phone or email. The old rule used to be to answer calls and emails within 24 hours. With today's shortened timelines and the availability of Blackberries and other mobile devices, your client should hear back within a few hours.
- Do not write long emails. Get to the action items quickly; summarize the rest in short bullets.
- Do not leave rambling voice messages. Get to the point in 20 seconds or less; otherwise arrange for a conference call.
- Adapt your communication style as closely as possible to that of your client without changing who you are.
- Understand who else needs to be "in the loop" and how often they need to be included.
2. Managing Expectations
- Surprises are great for parties and gifts - not for business. If there is possibility something will happen that your client needs to know about, tell them about the possibility upfront.
- You cannot manage expectations if you are not clear about what your client expects. For example, how do they define a topline report?
- Do not try to bury any information your client would not be pleased to hear. Trust is the most important component of the client relationship. Be open and honest.
3. Proactive Client Management
- Keep ahead of the curve. Let your clients know what you will need from them with as much advance warning as possible. They may have scheduling or internal requirements that need to be accommodated for.
- Give options whenever possible, but be prepared to discuss the implications of each and make sure to include the options the client requested, even if it is not the one would you recommend.
- Understand how closely your clients (and their internal clients) want to be involved in the process. Do they want all the details along the way, or do they just want to be involved in the key decisions and have you handle the rest?
Follow these guidelines and you won't annoy your internal and external clients. You might even delight them!
Read a Case Study on How Segmentation Helped GE Healthcare
This case study in the Pharma Research Report shows how GE Healthcare and CMB partnered to conduct segmentation that informed and aided business decision making and targeting by GE Healthcare's Picture Archiving & Communication Systems (PACS).
Posted by Cathy Harrison. Cathy is a client services executive at CMB, loves social media, music, and kick-butt research. You can follow Cathy on Twitter at @virtualMR