This is the first in a two-post series on building strong relationships with your clients. In our next post, we’ll discuss how to deal with difficult clients.

One of the most important aspects of being in business is building strong client relationships. This is especially true of a design business.  And while some say that the only rule for building customer relationships is that the customer was always right, in reality, there is much more to it.

Here are 5 tried and true steps for building great customer relationships:

1. Communication Communication Communication

You’ve probably heard that old adage from real estate that it’s all about location.  When it comes to effective design, however, it’s all about communication.  A good web designer is looking to take a client’s vision and make it real.

That requires the client to give clear, specific instructions and be upfront about budget and how the product will fit into their overall business strategy. Then it requires the  designer to say “here is what is possible and here is what I can achieve within your budget”.

2. Clear expectations

Setting clear expectations is crucial.  This can be as simple as being honest about time and resource limitations on both sides to being upfront about costs and complaints procedures.  Problems arise where these things are unclear or not managed effectively.

For example, some designers will do anything to win a client, promising things they can’t deliver.  And some clients will hold back important details, like a hard deadline or a budget constraint.  In both scenarios, the parties hope they can fix the problems during the project.  Yeah, not gonna happen.

3. Transparency

People want to know exactly what they are getting.  Hidden costs, add ons, and extras that are not disclosed at the start of the relationship are one of the fastest ways to sour a relationship.

You may win a client initially by having a lower bid, but if you want to be more than a one project designer and are looking for repeat business, clarity is the name of the game.

4. Can We Fix It, Yes We Can

Problems happen.  Good clients know that and most simply want them fixed as quickly as possible, especially if the designer is the one at fault.  Being willing to accept blame – and sometimes just taking it on the chin and getting it resolved – is one of the most effective ways to build goodwill.

5. Gratitude

Clients always have a choice in which web designers they use.  Recognising this and acting on it by delivering on time and to the project brief is the first step in showing gratitude.  But saying it – and meaning it – should be at the core of every communication with the client.

In our next post we’ll be discussing how to deal with a difficult client.  Be sure to follow us on twitter to be notified of our next post.