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Navigating the Client Relationship Maze: A Guide to Success

In my 18+ years of client-facing experience, with the last 12 dedicated to relationship management, I've encountered the highs and lows of client interactions. While client relationships are inherently rewarding, they also present challenges that demand careful navigation. Here's a breakdown of common challenges I faced and practical strategies for overcoming them:

  1. Information Mishandling

    1. Wrong ICP

    2. Information loss

    3. Wrong expectation settings

    4. Product scope

  2. Communication Challenges

    1. Lack of feedback

    2. Cultural differences

    3. Personality conflicts

    4. Changing POCs

  3. Others

    1. Competing priorities

    2. Technology issues

    3. Company policies

    4. Other issues - Economic conditions, market conditions, etc.


As you grow in the role, you realize that each challenge is different from the other.  There is no one way of handling all the issues that may be impacting your client relationships. But there are certain guidelines which can help you avoid the mistakes that can aggravate the situation and with consistent genuine care you can reach your favorable point. Here are some:


  1. Document Everything - Though most start-ups struggle with setting this particular part up of CSM teams but when it comes to delivering good customer experience, it is really important.  Having details of all the important milestones and entire customer journey so far can help you a lot while fixing a client relationship or recovering from a critical failure. 

  2. Take Proactive Feedback – Based on your customer journey mapping, you can identify certain critical points for your client relationships. Without the pressure of NPS, C-sat guidelines, reach out to your customers and take feedback.  If you don’t have a process in place, you can have your manager get on a quick call with client and document feedback as minutes of the meeting.  Even if you know that your client is super happy, still no harm in documenting good feedback 😊

  3. Research and Plan – Never walk into a critical relationship without learning about the client and their journey first. The first thing I do while prepping a relationship roadmap for a difficult relationship is, research. Go through all the important milestones again to understand what led you here. This helps understand the level of client’s frustration and you may be able to walk-in and start with a solution instead of more questions.

  4. Confirm the Core Issues – Don’t assume that you have understood the issue, confirm the issue before you get started on resolution. For example, a client lost some business because of your app, as a CSM you would understand the issue is loss of this business and fix the bug so that it never happens again while client’s concern may also include compensation for the lost business.

  5. Setting Clear Expectations - Once you have understood the concern and identified the solution, you can start with setting timelines, dashboard, goals and rules for planning, execution, resolution etc.


    • Under-promise and Overdeliver - If you can fix it in 24 hours, give a 36 hour timeline and strive to solve within 18 hours. But, one should not say 16 hours under pressure and create another challenge for your team.

    • Keep it clear and leave no scope for error - Share a dashboard/excel for tracking solutions and tasks assigned on both sides, assign a SPOC, schedule meetings, share invites.

    • In case it’s on the client end, ask their recommendation/suggestion for a solution/possibility.  If they offer a viable solution, that is great but have a plan ready using past experiences with another client(s).  Use automated alerts so that they don't feel you are poking them or sending unnecessary reminders for results/answers every other day.

    • Transparency - If it is a feature missing or expectations mismatch, wrong sale, then try to explore alternative ideas but also be clear and transparent with the client. 


  6. Keep an Open Mind – Once you have lost the client’s trust, the journey becomes very difficult.  Most of the clients will be cautious and confirm things 2-3 times which sometimes can be irritating to you but, remember the client is paying for the product and deserves this respect and assistance. Don’t let them disrespect you but, have an open mind and be ready to go above and beyond.

    For example, a client is unable to implement our tool because the implementation of another tool is taking longer than expected due to some technical issues.  In this situation, I would check (based on my experience with other clients using similar set of tools), can I/my technical team assist a little more than usual and expedite the implementation of both the tools.


  7. Personality Conflicts - Most people think they are rational, reasonable and unbiased and almost all of us are flawed. Hence, its obvious that sometimes even though you have done everything right, its just not working out leading to communication issues or unnecessary friction etc. I would start with reviewing the journey so far to ensure we have left no stone unturned to work it out and then change the CSM if required.

  8. Policy Issues – In this category, what works best is industry knowledge, experience and proactiveness.  Through industry knowledge and experience, you will already know the common policies, issues, additional contracts you have to do in a particular region.  For the rest, ask proactively when starting the account implementation.

  9. Track – The best defense is a good offense, every relationship in crisis will teach you something and its important for everyone in the team to learn from that.  Document client conversations and discuss these with your team for everyone to avoid mistakes that lead to critical relationships in the past.


Mastering tricky client relationships is an art – there's no one-size-fits-all. With a blend of genuine care, experience, and these tips, you'll transform into a relationship rockstar in no time. Feel free to reach out to us to discuss any specific situations where you might need assistance. We're here to help!

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