Clients are the lifeblood of any business. There are many factors to take into consideration when it comes to building trust and cultivating long-lasting business relationships, so excelling at client-focussed practices requires a particular set of skills. This guide lists some useful suggestions that can help business owners fine-tune their customer service skills.

Retaining your clients

Attracting large numbers of new customers is not enough to guarantee the success of a company. Ensuring return business is essential in this respect, but how can you make sure that your clients remain loyal and keep coming back?

The key is to combine the delivery of exceptional value with impeccable customer service, and this means going the extra mile and making an effort to exceed your customers' expectations. The formula is simple: if clients are impressed with both your products and the quality of the service offered, they will come back.

Consistency is another keyword here. A 2012 survey found out that 72 per cent of clients will stay loyal to a brand if customer service and support are up to standard. A further 63 per cent are willing to put up with minor inconveniences or delays if they know that they can rely on receiving outstanding customer service. Good customer service has three characteristics: it is personalised, it is flexible, and it delivers quick and effective solutions. The last point is particularly important, as clients must feel that you are genuinely interested in finding solutions, rather than just selling a product or a service.

Showing empathy and putting yourself in your clients' shoes will surely help your company provide the kind of customer service that is needed to retain clients. However, there is no better way of finding out what clients need than asking them directly. Listen carefully to any feedback, and more importantly, be ready to respond and to act upon it.

Putting your clients at ease

The first encounter with a client is decisive for the future of the business relationship. For this reason, it is essential that clients feel at ease from the very first moment, as this will help them feel comfortable and willing to build a relationship based on trust.

There are two elements that are essential here: appearance and attitude. First impressions count, so pay close attention to what your clothes say about you when meeting a client for the first time. Your attire must be professional, but be careful not to overdo it, as this could intimidate your client. Body language also plays a role in making your clients feel comfortable. Avoid crossing your arms or legs or fidgeting. Your tone of voice should be friendly but genuine and you should maintain good eye contact.

Showing appreciation for your clients

Showing that you value your clients is key to a lasting business relationship, as this will show that you care about them individually and not just as one more number. Thank your customers for their support and preference by sending handwritten notes or by making follow-up calls. Loyalty schemes and client discounts are good ideas too.

Corporate gifts should not be seen as wasted money, but as an investment that is very likely to produce returns. And do not forget customer satisfaction surveys, as these tell your clients that their opinions and suggestions are valued.

Ultimately, looking after your clients is all about empathy, communication, and professionalism. Remember that a little effort can go a long way and that a satisfied customer is one of the most effective ways of promoting your business.