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Four Ways to Build Positive Relationships with Clients

Consumer Empathy has been a hot topic in research for a while now - we've talked about the importance of it in various webinars, blogs, etc, and designed many studies around it. With all the focus on consumer empathy, we started thinking about client empathy and how it ties into one of our pillars, Committed Client Service. In order to excel at Committed Client Service, we know that we need to understand our clients' needs -- that is, being able to walk in their shoes and understand their business challenges, day-to-day struggles, and the issues that keep them up at night.

And, one of the greatest benefits that results from understanding our clients' issues, challenges, and how their companies operate is that we become better, more effective partners. Those of us who have worked in the industry for a while know this from experience, and wanted to share knowledge with other analysts at C+R. So we sought to make client empathy a topic of discussion and focus.

So we took a two-pronged approach to learn more about "the client side".

  • Our first step was to look internally and interview our own colleagues here at C+R who previously worked on the client side. Our interviews led to a presentation of "a client's perspective."
  • Our second step was to invite some of our current clients to our office as "guest speakers" to speak extensively about what it's like to work in their organization, the priorities and the challenges they face. Our clients shared the side we rarely see or know much about.

The information we obtained was invaluable! We learned about some of the pain points they experience with research suppliers as well as things that delight them about us! The common theme we kept hearing from each client was "communication." This led us to develop some best practices that include:

  1. Being proactive about keeping clients informed about their project with status updates, and making sure they know the schedule (especially when the report is due) so they understand when their focus is needed. And, when possible, share preliminary findings they can use to spark hallway conversation with their colleagues.
  2. If a problem occurs, let them know early and share any options that may be considered to rectify the problem.
  3. Be an industry resource for them - send industry trends and nuggets from conferences that may be of interest.
  4. Be patient, supportive, and provide them with tools (often in the form of written rationale) they can use with their stakeholders to help define the objectives of the study. We learned that, oftentimes, our clients are not part of the initial discussions when the project is scoped, which can make things difficult for them! Our simple understanding of this as a research provider can help us be a better collaborator.

We realize that there are many things that can be done to help foster a productive relationship with our clients (and, make their lives easier), both big and small. But, as long as "client empathy" is a common denominator, it's a win-win for everyone.

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