Develop and Maintain Client Relationships Systematically
AEC firms are typically not very systematic with their client relationships. Relationship management has been based on great personal relationships between the buyer and the seller. Quite often these relationships have been personalized to an extent that when a manager or expert changes the employer, his or her clients follow.
If the client is a large company or a public-sector customer, it is not self-evident that counting on personal relationships is a long-term solution. In a large organization, people come and go, and change positions or organizations, and your trusted client may not remain indefinitely. It is important to build and maintain relationships on a wider front.
The customer “has many heads,” as one architect stated. The adjoining table contains a collection of roles that are often at play in a project and advice on how to manage them during or between projects (See the table).
Information management is an important factor in systematic client relationship management. A CRM system or on- line service is not overkill even for a small company. With all the social networks and online services available, you have better means than ever to be in touch with and care for your clients. Regular face-to-face meetings are still important. Often the best ideas come outside of daily routines.
Client relationship management, or client care, does not happen on a high level alone. Every encounter with the client is part of it, and everybody in the company should be involved. Creating enjoyable and memorable customer experience is not limited to the consumer industry. Some of my clients have started to learn from service designers and have seen quite encouraging results. We are, after all, individuals with feelings, even if we work for companies.