How do you effectively build and maintain client relationships? In almost every aspect of our lives we deal with other people. Prior to exploring the actuarial profession, I worked as a housekeeper, phone operator, and bartender. Regardless of which job I was in, I seemed to have an ability to talk to customers and diffuse situations that others could not. While those interactions didn’t initially appear all that important, over time the businesses I was affiliated with began receiving positive feedback. It became impossible to deny the profound impact these seemingly meaningless interactions were making, and I made it a goal to leave every person I had contact with smiling.
Most people have heard the old saying, “You catch more flies with honey than vinegar.” I took that simple statement and applied it to every interaction possible. Whether dealing with a stranger, friend, or client; all people really want is to be treated with kindness and respect. Implementing this practice is far easier when things are going smoothly, but where it really has the greatest impact is when things don’t go as planned.
Shortly after entering the corporate world I was involved in a high priority project that had a tight deadline. Just prior to providing final results to the client an error was discovered. Externally the error appeared immaterial, and it would have been easier not to point it out. My supervisor made it clear that however difficult the conversation with the client was going to be, it was necessary. The decision to handle the situation honestly showed me that Wakely was a company I could be proud to work for. The uncomfortable process of communicating this error was handled with care, and we later found what appeared to be immaterial was actually very important to the client. Hiding this issue would have had a potentially profound effect. In the end our client was thankful, trust strengthened the relationship, and I found the company I was working for already held a philosophy I had adopted years prior.
Keeping communication open, even when the conversations are unpleasant, helps build trust with those you’re in contact with. Rather than hiding an issue or mistake it is better to confront it head on with a little honey. There are issues that cannot be resolved so simply, but regardless the complexity of the issue, kindness and respect will not go unnoticed. How you handle a bad situation is more telling of who you are as a company, and person, than years of interactions without issues. Next time your gut tells you to confront a difficult situation, act - but don’t forget a little honey goes a long way.