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January 22, 2024 Expert’s Corner

5 crucial steps to building long-lasting client relationships

Mia Walters

One of the invaluable lessons learned during my 30-plus year career in the advertising agency world is the transformative power of feedback — both negative and positive — and its potential to improve professional relationships and drive enduring loyalty.

It is this feedback, and the willingness to seek it out, that builds trust and deepens authentic connections.

It’s true that the willingness to create opportunities for honest criticism can be daunting at times. What if I don’t like what they have to say? Will I take it personally? How will I respond?

But what we should be asking ourselves is: What is the risk of not knowing? Without the guidance of feedback, we risk complacency, and worse yet, potential loss.

The best clients enter engagements with their partners knowing that this is a relationship that will take collaboration and meaningful communication.

They provide honest feedback throughout the process. They let you know when the work meets their expectations, and when it doesn’t.

They share frustrations when the process is complicated, time-consuming or potentially inefficient. And the best partners do the same.

But when clients or organizations miss these opportunities out of fear of getting bad news — or simply out of laziness — the relationship suffers, and therefore, so does loyalty.

So, how can you improve loyalty through feedback? Here are five proven strategies for measuring and enhancing client satisfaction.

Know your client’s expectations and goals

Ensuring satisfaction must start with a clear understanding of your client’s expectations and goals. Don’t be afraid to ask what’s most important to them as individuals, as well as the critical expectations of the business.

Not only does this provide a roadmap for your work, but it also starts the relationship off on the right foot.

Create a plan

Having gained an understanding of how your client wishes to work and what they expect from your organization, commit to the plan and approach.

Document the findings and communicate them to the team that will be working with the client. It’s important that all team members be on the same page and working with the same understanding.

And most importantly, revisit this plan frequently. Is it being followed? Is it working? Have expectations changed?

Ask for feedback throughout

Request feedback not just on the work, but on the overall experience and the interactions.

Surveys are a great opportunity to quickly measure satisfaction and identify issues, especially when triggered by a specific event like the completion of a phase or anniversary of the relationship.

Engaging in direct outreach through a call or in-person meeting deepens the relationship and provides a more personal connection.

Be open and respectful

Sharing feedback can be just as challenging as receiving it. Remember to be open and allow your client to share honestly without fear of a negative response.

Do not feel the need to defend or argue. Take in the information and feel comfortable probing to better understand. Create a sense of trust and authenticity that strengthens the bond and opens the door for a more collaborative relationship.


Being heard and acknowledged is validating, yet sharing feedback becomes meaningful only when it leads to tangible improvements.

Your client’s time is valuable. Be respectful of that. Make sure that you proactively address issues, communicate with others, and create mechanisms for following up.

Mia Walters is the senior vice president of client experience and growth at Primacy, a digital experience agency with an office in Farmington.

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