A couple of weeks ago we discussed customer onboarding, the process of welcoming new customers to your business. However, it doesn’t stop there. It is important to continue building strong relationships with your clients throughout your projects. In recent years, many people have talked more about ‘collaborative discovery. Than ‘client education’ or ‘client onboarding and some agencies have established a new way. Of working side by side with their clients. In this article, we’ll explore alternative approaches to customer relationships. That will help you transform them into lasting partnerships. 1. Collaborative discovery Building Customer Relationships: Collaborative Discovery One way to include the client more is to blur the lines between the agency and the client, and collaborate with them as much as possible, from the beginning.
We treat our clients as partners. Don’t like being called suppliers because we see it as a truly collaborative partnership. Where we’re both committed to each other. Explains Nikki Shum-Harden, SVP of Client Partnerships at RED Slovenia B2B List Interactive Agency. Start by taking a deep dive into the brand, the culture, the category and the audience. And then we invite the client to an immersion workshop. We spend a day or two in a room where our team and brand stakeholders are. And we really start to surface all the critical information. We need to know to start off on the right foot. Found that it’s also a great way for them to see. What it’s like to work with us, and a very efficient way to get everyone on the same page.
Customer Lifetime Value
Trent Walton, founder and one-third of web design store Paravel, takes it even further. “Usually we ‘join’ a team of engineers, leads, and sometimes other designers and front-end developers who are already in place, so there’s a lot of collaborative discovery. Our goal is always to make our involvement as seamless as possible, so that the entire team can focus on quality work.” Haraldur Thorleifsson, founder and director of design at Ueno, favors a similar approach. “We want our clients to see us as an extension of their team, not an external partner,” he explains. To achieve this, the Ueno team makes every effort to work in the same physical locations, communicate daily, and use the same communication tools as their clients. “We also make sure to do non-work things together, we get to know them as individuals, building trust and friendship along the way,” adds Haraldur.
Evgenia Grinblo, UX Lead at Future Workshops, found that the best way to turn a customer relationship into a partnership is to include customers in those moments of discovery, when the solution isn’t yet clear. “Allow them to ask questions, reflect on different solutions, draw, try things out, and iterate,” she suggests. “The traditional presentation process (you go off and design things to reveal) doesn’t work well for this because your process is opaque to your clients. I’m a big believer in learning by doing, and nothing has worked better for customer bonding than walking into a room full of whiteboards and sticky notes together.” Evgenia adds that another useful tool is to practice documenting product assumptions and questions. Let them ask questions, reflect on different solutions, draw, try things out, and iterate.
Change the Way You Build Customer
Evgenia Grinblo, UX Leader at Future Workshops “The ability to make an assumption and let go of it, without letting it block your creativity, allows clients to practice being comfortable with the unknown, which is what design is all about.” However, Jaimee Newberry, co-founder and CEO of Picture This Clothing, emphasizes that a truly collaborative team mentality is established through actions as well as the seemingly most innocent choice of words. “I take a strong position that my teams never ‘educate’ our clients,” he argues. “While I understand the common usage and intent behind the word, the subtle psychological implication of the word ‘educate’ over a word like ‘collaborate’ sets the tone for superior positioning. As if we thought that we are the teachers and they are the students. Our clients are smart adults, we share our knowledge with them, they share theirs with us.