What the Future of Client Management Could Look Like

Tools like collaborative work management software are set to change the way we acquire and keep clients over the next five years. For sales teams looking to scale, convert, and foster more lifelong customers, this article serves as a template for your goals. We’ll cover what you need to know about client management, including where it was and where we expect it will be by 2025. 

Ready to use these suggested platforms, tips, and ideas to get started? Let’s dive right in! 

6 common questions about client management

Here are the most frequently asked questions about client management and the current best practices for this business method. 

1. What is client management, really? 

Client management is a system that businesses use to attract, manage, and build relationships with customers. Client management can be practiced by any type of company in any industry. Whether this area of business is run by a project manager or a specialist, there are a number of tactics, tips, and trends available to maximize its effectiveness. 

Once you have a system in place, it’s easy to identify any missing links or underperforming segments and get everything back on track. Managing all of your client data, relationships, and evolving needs can be tricky, but there are plenty of cutting edge tools available to streamline it. 

2. What are some client management examples? 

Your company might already be using these common client management examples and not even know it! Either way, here’s what client management looks like in practical, day-to-day operations. 

  • Using CRM to increase the average percentage of returning customers. Client data and reporting can reveal patterns that affect your business. Having a customer relationship management, or CRM, tool at your disposal helps you align real-life customer behavior with figures. Then you can hone in on what makes clients keep coming back for more. 
  • Implementing membership program sign-up promotions to attract new clients. If you find you don’t have enough clients to manage yet, acquisition may take up a large portion of your efforts initially. 
  • Managing a brand’s online reputation to ensure consistent messaging. Clients need to know that they can trust what they’ve already bought into — especially if you want them to keep investing. 

Starting to get the picture? With these examples in mind, let’s take a look at some of the inherent benefits of this methodology. 

3. What is the importance of client management? 

First and foremost, client management is about driving revenue. Whether you’re looking to expand your current customer base or making an effort to improve existing relationships, this practice is essential for success. Not only does it help you provide customer service that goes above and beyond, but it also improves brand loyalty and long-term profits. This is especially important when you consider the fact that it’s 5 to 25 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to retain an existing one

4. What are the most critical client management skills? 

If you’d like to run a successful client management team, you’ll need to bring on professionals who possess the following experience and characteristics: 

  • Exceed expectations. First, it’s important to understand what the client wants and what their goals are. Then you must communicate how you’re able to assist and when they can expect what results. 
  • Be fully transparent. From answering questions to providing an insider look at your process, client managers need to build trust among clients. 
  • Balance realism with optimism. This is especially important when it comes to deadlines and goal setting.  
  • Focus on solutions. Regardless of what the issue is, a skilled client manager will offer up a number of viable action plans that work for businesses and customers alike. 
  • Efficient communications. From scheduling meetings to providing consistent and regular progress updates, client managers must be able to use the right methods and language to get everyone on the same page. 

Keep this list handy when you hire your next client relationship manager. If you don’t know much about this position (or why you’d need it), here’s a brief overview. 

5. What’s the role of a client relationship manager?

Think of client relationship managers as the liaisons between the important, non-customer-facing members of your team and the clients they service. Building and maintaining these relationships is the goal of client relationship managers. How they choose to go about it will vary from person to person. But for the most part, you can count on client relationship managers to do everything from congratulating long-term customers on personal milestones to achieving KPI sales goals by the end of the quarter. 

6. What client management software, systems, and tools are required? 

While there is no one way to manage clients, you’ll definitely want to include one or more of these in your arsenal, regardless of what your goals are: 

  • A great client status report template. As the name implies, a client status report explains who the client is, what their goals are, and where they are currently in the buying/selling process. Templatizing this type of documentation keeps records uniform and searchable. It’s also important to choose a tool that can automatically fill in missing information gaps, update files with new notes, and merge duplicates to keep client communication running efficiently. 
  • A set of customer profile requirements. These will provide a foundation for your client status template. Most CRMs will allow you to create custom fields so you can tailor your profiles to your business goals or unique audience requirements. A customer overview template is a great tool for this as well. When your customer overview template is filled with your customer profile requirements, it allows your teams to get important information at a glance for any and all clients they service. 
  • A system for sending client updates and communication. Progress reports, meeting notes, and quick weekly check-ins all fall in this category. But keeping track of who did (or didn’t) send what when can get really confusing in messy inboxes. And that’s where these systems really shine. Combine yours with an automated email tool, a fully visible project management platform, and a client update email template, and you’ll be off to a good start. 
  • Collaborative work management software. For example, Wrike provides client relationship managers with features that help keep everyone informed while building trust among existing customers. When used correctly, this type of tool can also help teams offer more accurate timelines, strategically manage unexpected roadblocks, and keep their clients well within their original budget. 

Now that you know exactly what client management is, what duties it includes, and what tools you need to succeed, let’s learn more about the context surrounding the subject. 

A brief history of client management 

Given how swiftly the technology revolution hit our world these past three decades, it’s safe to say that client management looks very different now than it did before. 

Client management in the pre-computer era

The concept of customer relationship management was first developed in response to data science and collection advancements in business. Handwritten Rolodexes and pencil and paper consumer surveying were just becoming popular in the 1970s and ‘80s. As a result, businesses needed a way to harness this information to improve their practices. 

And that’s where client management came in. Originally known as customer relationship management, client management involved the same basic principles as it does today. The only problem? It was limited to individual accounts and people. 

Personal, one-on-one time with clients is nearly impossible to scale without technology, so companies were limited to prioritizing only a few customers at a time. Unless brands had large teams or extremely lucrative lead generation marketing tactics, rapid growth was out of the question at the time. 

Client management in the early computer era 

By the late 1980s, information systems had greatly expanded. Computers made it possible for businesses to save, store, and organize a much greater volume of data, including customer information. Then brands started using software to further analyze regular reports on sales and marketing. 

It might not seem that remarkable to us now, but for the first time ever, it was possible to get a complete picture of where your business was and where it was going. 

Also, greater connectivity meant greater audience reach. Now that marketers could learn about demographics from all over the globe, there were a lot more options (and research) available for target audiences. So businesses weren’t just more organized and goal-oriented, they were also tapping into bigger and better client opportunities, which forced them to redefine how they related to the world at large as well as individual consumers. 

Client management today

Nowadays, companies large and small have learned to better identify their dream clients, reach out to them in productive ways, and foster long-term relationships. They no longer have to sacrifice quality for quantity. Advanced tools like CRMs and project management software have made it possible to cater to wide audiences while maintaining a sense of personalization and individual connection. 

And with so many competitors flooding the market, businesses are taking it upon themselves to now view client management as a craft instead of just another tactic. But honing your client management techniques, systems, and tool kit is just the beginning. To truly succeed in this arena, businesses will have to start taking action now to prepare for the future.

The following future trends, ideas, and suggestions are a great place to start preparing for the next five years. 

9 predictions for the future of client management

We now have all the tools we could possibly want to help achieve our client management goals. However, they’re only useful if you actually use them! Each one of these predictions has a solution available on the market, so be sure to make note of our examples and suggestions as you start to build your client management strategy for the future. 

1. Customer experience will be more important than simply managing relationships. 

Customer experience is one step above customer relationships. When it comes to relationships, the focus is often on taking action after a client has said or done something to trigger a closed-loop response. But customer experiences are all about using a continuous, big-picture view of the customer journey. Customer experience tasks vary from anticipating client needs to empathizing with their biggest pain points to creating an ongoing plan for relationship management that can help eliminate roadblocks before they even happen. 

To do any of this, you’ll need to implement a system (preferably one that’s visual) that helps walk your clients through every stage of the process from the outset. And after you begin, you’ll need to continue monitoring the system and look for weaknesses before they affect progress. Tools like collaborative work management platforms are especially useful for this practice because they make it easy to create your own effective (and repeatable) roadmap

2. Creating and managing expectations will no longer be an optional skill. 

Tools like collaborative work management software can help predict better delivery timelines, sort out responsibilities, and realistically track unexpected changes. Sales experts agree that under-promising and over-delivering has been and is still the goal in customer relationship management. But now that there are so many great tools available for client managers, there’s really no excuse for delays. To get started, consider adopting a platform like Wrike to improve goal setting with your clients. 

3. Task management will go hand in hand with client management. 

In order to deliver great work on time and under budget for a larger number of clients, your team will need to keep track of details for every active project. Most businesses still rely on email, but messages can get lost in long threads or spam folders, which is exactly why an integrated task management tool is so important. Combine your favorite CRM (a lot of companies use Salesforce) with another tool that offers visual representations of progress, in-app communication, and full project visibility. 

4. High-quality customer data will be worth its hypothetical weight in gold. 

Besides helping businesses convert leads and create better products, great customer data can lead to better client experiences. The catch is you have to know what data to use and how to vet it for quality. Not to worry though — you should already have most of what you need in your existing client and project archives. Critically analyze the reports and direct feedback you’ve received to find patterns. If you don’t already have this information collected, try using a collaborative work management software that can help you track client interactions as well as find new areas for improvement directly from your most valuable resource, your customer base. 

5. Sales teams will take on a more customer service-focused approach. 

We already know that sales and customer service should work together. But over the next few years, there will be some major overlap in their roles. Blending the two areas makes it easier for teams to strive towards the same goals, get on the same page about client relationships, and ultimately communicate more efficiently. Although each department will still need its own set of job-specific tools, businesses can get a head start on this trend by adopting a task management and collaboration platform that facilitates their working relationship. 

6. Project management methodologies will enhance daily client interactions. 

Now that businesses have the luxury of reaching out to thousands of new leads a day, it’s time to consider what that means for businesses of all sizes in the near future. In order to effectively manage everything from prospect email campaigns to onboarding forms to CRM profile clean-up, businesses will have to rely on tools like Wrike. 

Not only is Wrike a great example of a tool that can be used to improve customer relationships, but it’s also helpful for systemizing and scaling those day-to-day marketing and sales messages. Tools like this can help your team reach out and reply to all inquiries in a timely manner without missing a beat or losing important contact notes in the process. 

Not to mention the fact that when a client calls with a question, virtually any team member can open the system, take a quick glance at the progress being made, and give an informed answer. Your team feels empowered to handle customer service tasks without any extra prep and your customer trusts that everyone at your company is doing a great job. How’s that for high-quality client relationship management? 

7. Interdepartmental goal setting will become the norm. 

Remember how we mentioned that sales and customer service responsibilities will continue to blend over the next five years? Well, it turns out that operations and marketing will also join them. In fact, we may even see all four of these departments tackle the same specific revenue goals together. 

The best way to future-proof your team against mass confusion and keep a steady flow of business during the transition period is to provide them with a tool that promotes better cross-functional team communication. 

For example, Wrike helps teams of all shapes and sizes set, update, and monitor goals. And there’s really no excuse for anything but success when your entire team is on the same page (or, in this case, dashboard) at all times. 

8. Indirect sources of revenue will dictate daily operations.

Now that businesses have (and will continue to have) deeply advanced access to customer profiles and project KPIs, you can expect a lot more auxiliary streams of income to open up. 

According to Salesforce, the client management strategies used today are creating stronger brand loyalty and increasing the percentage of lifelong customers. But they’re also boosting the number of direct customer referrals across all industries. 

In short, indirect customer value will become another surprisingly lucrative reason to up your client management progress through more advanced insight and communication tools. 

9. Businesses interested in maximizing growth will need to develop workload balance. 

How much new business do you plan to take on in the next five years? Great. Now, do you know how you’ll handle it all? Whether or not you plan to expand your team, there are lots of tools available to help you balance growing workloads and deliver the same, consistently top-notch service to all your clients. 

For example, you can take advantage of a tool like Wrike to track key metrics and use a diverse set of resources (like Gantt charts and task assignments). Plus you’ll have the freedom to develop and implement a set of templated workflows, which makes it easier to quickly onboard new team members and freelancers without interrupting client relationship management. 

Collaborative work management tools are the future of client management. 

To recap, over the next five years, businesses will start to see the following client management trends: 

  • Department blending. Client management will become a company-wide issue, making collaborative tools mission-critical for success. Expect to see more role overlap between departments as well as revenue goals that are set for more than one team at a time. 
  • Experience over everything. Yes, relationships are made and fostered by great experiences, but businesses will need to be at the top of their game by providing holistic processes that span the length of the customer journey. That includes (but isn’t limited to) exceeding expectations, being transparent about progress, and automating communication. 
  • Use the right tools. The biggest difference between client management’s past and future is the tools we choose to use. So make sure, at a minimum, you’re choosing a collaborative work management platform and CRM that automate your most basic client interactions to help overcome growing pains from these upcoming trends. 

Don’t have a work management platform you absolutely love yet? Give Wrike’s free trial a go and see all the ways you can use it to improve your client management strategy.

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