Maintaining Client Relationships

In this chaotic day and age, maintaining relationships with clients and customers has become increasingly difficult. Local leaders have had to be nimble, adopting new strategies and finding new ways to connect and communicate with the people who matter most to their businesses. Here, several local leaders share their thoughts, experiences, and advice with us.

Chas Torrence, Executive Vice President, EMJ ConstructionWhen the world gets chaotic, we return to the basics to maintain clear communications with our clients. We call it our foundation because it provides certainty in turbulent times. That starts with our purpose, to be people serving people. We lead by example and serve others. Our mission is to deliver an exceptional experience to our clients, partners, and colleagues. We challenge ourselves to focus on our clients, which sets us apart in the industry. Finally, that leads to our values, an enduring set of principles or traits that define what we want EMJ to embody. We aspire to be trustworthy, selfless, and gritty. By returning to our foundation, we can assure our clients that while the construction process is not easy, we will be there with them every step of the way, working to remove pain points and delivering an exceptional experience.

Chas Torrence, Executive Vice President, EMJ Construction

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Miguel Morales, Owner/ Operations Consultant, Morales Restaurant GroupClear and concise communication is vital to running a successful business. Our employees are the voice of the restaurant, and we are transparent with them to ensure that messaging is properly conveyed to our guests. With supply chain issues it has become more difficult than ever to source a variety of products. Rather than simply letting the servers know that we are out of a certain item, we explain to them why that is so that they are able to translate that to their tables. We also utilize our social media pages, along with our newsletter database and website to keep guests informed. With products and pricing changing so frequently, we are able to easily relay that information and manage expectations. Using a variety of channels enables us to reach a large portion of our guests and communicate new offerings, events, and other information about the restaurants.

Miguel Morales, Owner/ Operations Consultant, Morales Restaurant Group

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Nathan Lindley, Owner, Public House/The Social/Il PrimoWithout a doubt, in the hospitality industry, the relationship between client and service provider has been tested – through pandemic shutdowns, staffing challenges, and supply chain difficulties. Now, more than ever, there has to be a level of trust between both parties that the price being charged is truly a best-effort representation of what it costs to purchase and produce the final product that is being served. For restaurants to survive in this climate, they have had to quickly adjust their prices to keep purchasing power and retain staff. Some people find the increase in restaurant prices unacceptable. Unfortunately, all we can do is accept that they will have to find other uses for their entertainment dollars in that case.

Nathan Lindley, Owner, Public House/The Social/Il Primo

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Heather Tussing, COO, Morning Pointe Senior LivingLike many companies coming out of the pandemic, we found that customers want more personalized accessibility. They want simple ways to connect with our teams at almost any time and easy access to key information related to their loved ones. We know that open lines of communication are key to success, so we adapted by adding more of them. By incorporating two new communication platforms, we’ve been able to personalize our communications. The first, called Lifeloop, allows us to share all the details regarding engagement and activity for a resident. This helps us keep families informed about what their senior is participating in. SalesMail is another new tool that allows our team to record a simple video message and then personalize it for every single customer or prospect. In the changing world of senior living, we have found that these tools improved our overall communication, enabling us to better serve our customers while also empowering our associates.

Heather Tussing, COO, Morning Pointe Senior Living

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Anna Baker, Creative Director, Stone Source, Inc.Before 2020, I spent a lot of time creating and honing our processes and procedures with the help of a professional coach. We crafted a customer experience that was reliable and repeatable, focused on the one-on-one relationship between a client and salesperson. We all follow the same process when navigating the sale, which helps us guide the client through the entire process. The salesperson is responsible for the entire job, from selecting materials to installation, and the customer has a single contact with us who knows all the details.
In 2020, we had to go to appointment-only showroom hours for social distancing with clients, and we discovered that we could serve our clients more fully this way. With a scheduled visit, we are able to give clients our uninterrupted attention, and they often have the whole showroom to themselves. The best benefit is that we are able to concentrate on the estimating, sourcing, and ordering in the quiet time between appointments. Our sales volumes have exceeded pre-pandemic levels, and we have happier clients and salespeople.

Anna Baker, Creative Director, Stone Source, Inc.

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Ani Yacoubian Riggs, Buyer, Yacoubian TailorsProviding customer service is key in this day and age. Everything has become so streamlined; it’s not so common anymore. I truly believe people are starved for it. Retaining and acquiring customers is about keeping them happy, so you have to go above and beyond with customer service – give them something you feel they cannot get anywhere else. It is easier to do face-to-face, but we don’t always have that luxury. We have had to incorporate more technology because people always seem to be in a time crunch. We have been utilizing direct messaging, and we even created an online store so customers can shop at their leisure. Giving customers the best product and experience is what we aim for.

Ani Yacoubian Riggs, Buyer, Yacoubian Tailors

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Richard Ervin, Director of Finance & Business Development, Vascular Institute of ChattanoogaAll the challenges our communities face these days have made connecting with clients, prospective referrers, and coworkers even more daunting. But with the challenge, creative solutions unfold, sometimes leading to better and more effective ways to communicate our message. At VIC, we have had to tweak how we communicate to providers with so many offices having restricted access. This is where our print messaging, social media, and web presence allow us to be clear, concise, and to the point on the services and care we can provide. It is always important to speak, whenever possible, directly to your client. There is nothing more valuable than face-to-face contact. That personal interaction is truly the difference between temporary and long-term relationships.

Richard Ervin, Director of Finance & Business Development, Vascular Institute of Chattanooga

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Teresa Dinger, Vice President of Patient Access & Chief Marketing Officer, Siskin Hospital for Physical RehabilitationI once had a CEO who always stressed the importance of maintaining flexibility and a sense of humor in all situations. These two attributes have never been more essential than during recent chaotic times. We need to be nimble and flexible when meeting the needs of those we serve. In order to demonstrate flexibility, we need to be open-minded and listen to truly understand what the client really needs. Along with this comes possessing a can-do attitude, with the goal of always exceeding expectations. A sense of humor and the ability to develop personal connections is also critical. Sometimes you just need to be able to take a step back to reflect on what is truly important for all involved.

Teresa Dinger, Vice President of Patient Access & Chief Marketing Officer, Siskin Hospital for Physical Rehabilitation

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Cindy Wilson, Owner/Founder, Cúrate MedAestheticsNever let them see you sweat! It’s imperative to remain calm and confident during these unprecedented days. Our patients count on us to partner with them through these uncertain times, so we strive to anticipate their expressed and unexpressed needs. Our team operates under a “generosity of spirit” motto caring for the patients both emotionally and physically. This is demonstrated with clear communication regarding their goals, their concerns, and their futures.

Cindy Wilson, Owner/Founder, Cúrate MedAesthetics

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Heath Haley, CEO, Trident TransportMaintaining client relationships, communicating clearly and effectively, and navigating new challenges with our clients requires listening and understanding. It’s important to be receptive to a client’s wants, needs, and challenges. The relationship we have with our clients is a two-way street that offers mutual gain and benefit. It’s important to always offer multiple solutions to fulfill a client’s needs and give them the ability to make choices that serve themselves. In our present day and age, several forms of communication and technologies have replaced face-to-face meetings, making it more important than ever to understand how a client prefers to communicate and accommodate those preferences. It boils down to the basics no matter how chaotic times may get.

Heath Haley, CEO, Trident Transport

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Kim Campbell, Owner, Chattanooga Closet Company Every challenge presents an opportunity to learn and grow. Regardless of the exceptional times we have recently been through, if you have been in business long enough you have run across challenges. Managing expectations has to start from the very beginning of the relationship. You have to communicate what product or service your business will provide with a specific outline on achieving the agreed-upon outcome. I don’t think you can over-communicate. In this day and age, you need to text, email, and call. Our company’s timeline from initial meeting to completion is approximately 8-10 weeks. We keep the client updated over the extended timeframe so they know we are taking care of them. The follow-up after the work is completed is just as important. It all comes down to letting them know we care that they are happy.

Kim Campbell, Owner, Chattanooga Closet Company

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