Every consumer reporting agency, or every small business for that matter, has a set of clients and set of vendors. Those relationships are equally important when it comes to running a successful and profitable company. Here are some tips on how you can offer good account management to grow and maintain great client relationships. And those tips are also good guidelines for helping you choose the right vendors for yourself. Because after all, we should be treating people how we want to be treated, right?
Communication. Business-to-business (B2B) clients are busy running their own companies and don’t always have to time to randomly check what’s new with their vendors. Communicating new products, features and functionality is important. Make sure you let clients know when you have something new that would make their jobs easier. This can be done by calling them, e-mailing, or sending a webinar invite. Don’t be shy about using all three methods of communication. Clients won’t mind if the news saves them time or money or helps them reach their revenue goals. The same applies for you when interviewing vendors. Ask how often they communicate with their clients regarding new features. Or better yet, have them tell you the last three news items they announced to their clients.
Accessibility and responsiveness. Communication is a two-way street. Make sure your clients can easily get in touch with you. And when they do, make sure you respond and handle issues in a timely manner. Don’t wait to hear from your clients when they are unhappy. Give customers a chance to go over issues in a monthly, semi-annual, or annual catch-up call. Let them decide on the frequency of these meetings. Conversely, when choosing a supplier, make sure your account manager is willing to have scheduled review meetings to your liking. In-person meetings when possible are also extremely rewarding.
Industry Knowledge. Good account management is more than just knowing what your company is doing. Make sure you are knowledgeable about what is going on in the industry. What are the best practices? What new legislation may affect your clients? Account managers should make it a point to be up to date on outside issues that may affect future business. The same goes for client knowledge. Keeping up with your clients’ news and announcements is part of the job.
Understand specific needs. Most likely your clients won’t all be the same size or have the same product needs. They may even service completely different industries. Knowing the complex needs of each customer will help you make informed suggestions regarding their business and will also build trust and strengthen relationships. Ask them about their clients, and how they market to them. Offer solutions instead of products. Look for ways to possibly help them find new revenue streams or diversify their customer base. Maybe you have a product or service that can help them branch out. On the flip side, take notes when you interview a new vendor. See if they ask you questions about your business.
Manage expectations. Building trust means you need to be honest about expectations: the old “under promise, over deliver” method. Or simply put, don’t write checks to your clients that your production team can’t cash. In the end, an item that may take a little longer to deliver won’t cause you to lose a client if you successfully managed expectations during the process. And if something is taking longer than expected, make sure you communicate that and let them know why. It will pay off in the end.
Longevity. This one is a little tricky, since people do change jobs, and companies make changes or get acquired. But one thing is for sure, relationships get stronger the longer they last. Ask potential vendors about turnover in their company. Specifically, ask how long your account manager has been in that role. Clients don’t appreciate being shuffled around. Continuity is key.
Account management is complex. Managing a set of clients that all have different needs and expectations can be a challenge. Keeping good notes along the way will make your job smoother. Stay organized and focused on servicing clients to create everlasting business relationships. And don’t forget to measure your performance with customer satisfaction surveys once a year. The same goes for measuring the service level of your own vendors. Make sure you have a voice with them, too.
Camille Gamble worked as Vice President of Marketing and Support for startup Verified Person Inc., acquired by Sterling Talent Solutions in 2016. Her experience also includes leading the marketing efforts for startup criminal database provider Rapsheets.com, acquired by ChoicePoint in 2004. With her background at these screening companies she brings nearly 20 years of consumer reporting agency experience to Accio Data as a business developer.