When working in professional services, you have a lot going on. You need to balance workloads and deadlines, keep morale high, and ensure your internal team isn’t spread too thin. You also need to communicate with client teams, vendors, and independent contractors. 

All of those to-dos are important. But there’s one more that should always be at the top of your list: keeping your clients and customers happy. They’re the ones who pay your bills, which means their experience with your business needs to be top of mind. 

This is exactly where customer relationship management and learning how to retain your clients come in. What is customer relationship management? Why do companies use customer relationship management? And, more importantly, how can you build even more positive bonds with your clients? Let’s dig into what you need to know. 

What is customer relationship management?

While it’s become a bit of a buzzword, the very definition of customer relationship management is right there in the name: it’s the strategy you use to manage your interactions with current and prospective customers of your business.

Obviously, the goal of customer relationship management is to ensure that clients have a positive experience. That not only increases the satisfaction of your customers themselves, but also leads to numerous benefits for your business, including an improved reputation, a full sales pipeline, stronger customer retention, and even higher profits. In fact, 73% of companies with above-average customer experiences perform better financially than their competitors. 

How do project management tools help with building client relationships?

With all of those benefits, it’s easy to see why customer interaction management (that’s a synonym for customer relationship management) has become a focus area for so many businesses today.

But, ensuring that your clients have a positive experience isn’t always easy. Fortunately, project management tools can help you navigate around common barriers and ensure that your customers rave about your services and professionalism. 

Project management tools allow for total transparency

Your clients hired you, which means they want to offload some responsibilities from their own plates. Yet, in most cases, that doesn’t mean they want to be completely left out of the process.

All too often, your agreement looks like this from your client’s perspective: you decide on a project and deadline, and then they don’t hear anything else about it until the final deliverable arrives on their desks.

Not only is that approach inefficient (because you’re losing valuable touchpoints when you could course-correct, if necessary), but it also breeds distrust. A reported 40% of marketers distrust their media agency partners, and that concept likely holds true across a lot of professional services sectors—not just marketers. Leaving customers to wonder if any progress is happening inspires doubt.

But, when you use a project management tool to manage client projects, you’re able to give your customers increased visibility into the work your team is doing. Depending on what permissions you give them (Wrike makes it easy to customize your Access Roles), they’ll be able to keep an eye on what tasks are being completed and what updates are being made—rather than being totally left in the dark.

Project management tools help keep communication channels open

Communication is one of the biggest challenges you face when managing relationships with your customers. 

Between endless email threads, comments on documents and briefs, numerous meetings, and sporadic phone conversations, messages and requests are spread everywhere. Inevitably, important details get missed, which can make your team look sloppy and inattentive.

Another key benefit of collaborative work management software is that it streamlines and centralizes communication with your team and your clients. Everybody has a single place to drop status updates, edit and approval requests, and questions. 

Operating from that single source of truth ensures that you’re crossing your t’s and dotting your i’s, and also prevents frustrations and complaints from clients who feel as if they’re being left out of the process. 

Project management tools clarify project scope and expectations

If there’s one phrase that will immediately send a shiver down the spine of anyone who works in professional services, it’s scope creep.

Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for project requirements and expectations to balloon as time goes on. According to Project Management Institute’s “2018 Pulse of the Profession Survey”, a whopping 52% of projects experienced scope creep.

We wish we could tell you it’s avoidable altogether, but that’s pretty optimistic. Here’s the good news: project management tools can help you and your clients align your expectations. 

Setting up your client projects within your software will force you to get clarity on everything that’s involved. That information should then be shared with your client, so you can confirm that you’re on the same page before starting any work. If for some reason, you’re not on the same page, you then have the flexibility to make some adjustments before setting a final price and deadline. 

Project management tools allow for on-time deliveries 

Little will frustrate your clients more than deadlines that seem more like suggestions than rules. When an end date is set, they expect to have the work in-hand by that time—not a week or so later.

But, we also know that ensuring on-time deliveries can be a challenge when your team is juggling dozens of client projects. There’s a lot to keep track of!

A project management platform can help you streamline your internal operations and keep your team more organized. With the ability to do things like filter tasks and view calendars, everybody will have an easier time prioritizing the work that’s assigned to them—making you much more likely to deliver work to your clients when they’re expecting it (or better yet, sooner!).

It’s proof that improving relationships with your customers doesn’t only involve strategies that are directly client-facing. Organizing things behind-the-scenes goes a long way as well.  

Make sure customer relationship management is on your priority list

You and your professional services team are responsible for a lot. But, client experience is something that should never be relegated to the back burner. Your customers are the ones who keep your lights on, so their satisfaction needs to be a top priority.

Making that happen will involve some effort on your end, but enlisting the help of a project management tool can remove a lot of hassle. That technology will make it easier to:

  • Increase visibility and transparency
  • Keep lines of communication open
  • Clarify scope and expectations
  • Ensure consistent, on-time deliveries

Are you ready to elevate your own client relationships? Sign up for a free trial of Wrike now

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