10 ways to build rapport with clients so they stick around

Learning how to build rapport with clients is an extremely valuable soft skill to have. Here are 10 ways I build strong relationships with clients.

How to build rapport with clie

Learning how to build rapport with clients is probably the most important soft skill you need to develop in your professional career.

Being quite introverted was something I struggled with for a long time. But once I left my corporate job to become a freelancer, I was forced to figure it out through trial and error.

This is the article I wish I had when I first started working with new clients.

I merged together my own experiences, along with sources backed by actual psychology on how to build a strong relationship with your clients. Hopefully, by the end of this article, you’ll have a solid foundation on how to not only impress your clients but improve all of your professional and personal relationships.

Why building rapport is important

Building rapport with your clients is essential for creating a harmonious relationship based on mutual trust. It goes beyond just using effective body language, maintaining eye contact, engaging in small talk, and showing genuine interest through active listening skills during your interactions.

Sure these actions, especially in face-to-face interactions, help convey empathy and demonstrate that you're a good listener. Even paying attention to nonverbal cues and asking rapport-building questions can strengthen your client relationships.

But, especially for most remote companies, rapport building is all in the way you make clients feel. The feeling that they made the right decision working with you is what you want to aim for. Because when clients feel good, and they get good results, they’ll want to continue working with you.

Better client retention means more predictability in your revenue. And it also means that word-of-mouth referrals are more likely to happen — allowing you to continue signing new clients for your service business.

Alright, now let’s get into 10 ways you can build rapport with your clients.

10 rapport-building examples for retaining clients

Here are 10 ways how to build rapport with your clients:

  1. Use client portals to provide VIP access
  2. Onboard clients mindfully
  3. Personalize your communication
  4. Give timely responses to questions
  5. Proactively check on your client's needs
  6. Meet deadlines and be reliable
  7. Provide transparent project details
  8. Show appreciation through kind gestures
  9. Ask for feedback
  10. Celebrate their milestones

Alright, let’s dive deeper into how to do each one.

1. Use client portals to provide exclusive access

Copilot client portal

One of the best ways to build rapport with a client is to show that you are different from other service providers. One way freelancers, agencies, and firms stand out from other service providers is to create a great client experience through a client portal.

Client portals allow your service business to feel more like a software company — allowing your clients to log into their own dashboard and view everything from invoices, messages, dashboards, reporting, and project timelines.

This is why I personally started using Copilot to manage my entire service business. It allows me to stand out from other marketing freelancers. And the best part is that I can customize my client portal for each client. They log in to see their branding, their project’s progress, and their private message feeds.

It’s like I built them their own VIP space to collaborate seamlessly for amazing results instead of continually disrupting their day by decoding my update emails in their crowded inbox. I’ve had clients tell me how impressed they are with their portal and how informed and involved they feel at every turn, even for complex long-term projects. I owe a lot of those 5-star ratings to Copilot streamlining my interactions from start to finish.

2. Onboard clients mindfully

Onboarding welcome message in Copilot

Besides setting up a kickoff call and getting a contract signed, one of the first main ways your client sees how you handle your workflow is when you onboard them.

One of the things I learned working at my previous company was that there was a strong correlation between the onboarding experience and customer churn. As in, the better the onboarding experience, the more likely a user was to stick around for the long term.

So making the right first impression matters a lot. Yet it used to overwhelm me trying to handle each client’s unique needs manually. I’d drop balls constantly — forgetting NDAs, using wrong names, pointing to outdated resources.

Copilot automations

Copilot Automations changed everything. Now onboarding fires off seamlessly right when I close a new deal without lifting a finger. Welcome emails, contract sends, document sharing, instant portal access — it takes care of everything.

I just review and customize, while Copilot has their back end fully covered. And my clients definitely appreciate the red carpet treatment from day one. The best part is this workflow scales easily no matter how large my client base grows.

So be mindful when onboarding new clients. Learn about your client's business and needs and make sure to keep these in mind in any onboarding messages or automations you set up. At the end of the day, clients want to feel safe and reassured that doing business with you was the right call — so give them that comfort.

3. Personalize your communication

Staying on the same topic of keeping your clients reassured, personalizing your communication is key to showing clients you care. For example, sending a warm welcome email when you and a new client is so key to starting things off right. But crafting something unique and thoughtful for each person used to seem impossible with my packed schedule.

So I’d rely on bland templates that kicked off relationships with all the personal flair of an automated bot. Not exactly the white glove service you want to aim for.

Copilot changed that completely. Now when I close a deal, I customize a welcome email for each new partner right within their contact profile.

I make sure to address them by name, reference specifics we discussed about their goals, and highlight offerings from my services that will excite them most. It sets the stage for a tailored experience from day one.

And my new clients really feel the care and attention focused solely on their needs when receiving the personalized outreach. Do not overlook the importance of effective communication skills!

4. Give timely responses to questions

How much does it disrupt your day when clients post questions and important requests into your portal but they get buried beneath other tasks? Then suddenly it’s days later when you see the notifications.

We’ve all been there as business owners. You feel awful making a customer wait that long for a simple reply. Especially when they have to circle back asking if you got their message.

Using software or not, you want to respond to clients as soon as you can. However, knowing when you get notifications, and from which clients, doesn’t hurt.

Copilot’s real-time alerts can get you on track to great communication that wows clients. Now anytime someone sends an inquiry through the portal, you instantly receive an email notification to take action.

Whether you’re heads-down in Copilot or tackling overflowing inboxes elsewhere, you'll always know right away when a customer needs your insight. No more follow-ups drifting unseen for ages!

Many entrepreneurs tell me proactive notifications bring their responsiveness to the next level. Their customers recognize and appreciate the extra reliability too. Everyone sees requests are handled with care from the start, strengthening trust in the process.

Add Copilot’s capacity to automatically log portal conversations within your email history, and staying up to speed is easier than ever. Say goodbye to missed messages and delays disappointing those important clients.

5. Proactively check on your client's needs

It is easy to get caught up with day-to-day tasks that our clients fall from top of mind. But proactively reaching out is key to building trust with your client and inspiring word of mouth that grows your business. By simply asking open-ended questions and listening intently to their answers, your clients will feel valued and assured that you care about their success, not just the billables.

Here are some conversation starters I use that go a long way: “How has progress been going?”; “Have your priorities or expectations changed at all?”; “What aspects are you most pleased or concerned with so far?” These show active listening about how their goals may have evolved.

Clients love it when you circle back to dig deeper on initial points of feedback too. Like following up on how a recommended app integration is impacting their customer experience, or if a graphics refresh I designed brought the desired boost to social engagement.

Checking in monthly or quarterly helps stay ahead of their needs instead of issues boiling over after the fact. And by dedicating time for more face-to-face interactions (even if virtual), our partnership strengthens tremendously. Going that extra mile builds chemistry to fuel loyalty in good times and bad.

Simply showing your dedication beyond the work alone sets my services apart. Who doesn’t want a trusted advisor guiding their business growth and innovating over a transactional vendor relationship when push comes to shove?

6. Meet deadlines and be reliable

Meeting deadlines and delivering on promises lays the groundwork for good rapport with clients longterm. When you prove yourself as a reliable partner focused on their goals, that consistency builds trust in ways no clever marketing can.

I see it firsthand whenever a deadline approaches. Just by turning around a content strategy or marketing plan on schedule (or even early), I reinforce to a client that I’m dedicated to their success. No matter what fires pop up on my end, or rounds of edits come in late, I stabilize their experience so surprises disrupt business outcomes rather than our relationship.

And that dependability pays dividends in strengthening bonds and credibility that keeps clients coming back. It reassures them you’ll follow any project through amidst chaos, keeping their priorities always top of mind. Such accountability when (not if) circumstances get chaotic provides that common ground both as professionals and people.

Simply delivering exceptional work brings surprises, and then circling back for transparent check-ins on if an experience felt positive demonstrates my loyalty. That stability and care makes all the difference come contract renewal season or referrals to partners. Focus on strengthening rapport all along the journey, and you’ll find great clients who champion you every step of the way.

7. Provide transparent project details

Constant check-in calls with clients just to provide project updates used to devour so much time week to week. It was the only way for them to peek behind the curtain though when questions popped up. Not exactly efficient for either of us, right?

Copilot changed that bottleneck completely through real-time transparency. By integrating reporting tools directly into each client portal, you built an always-on insights dashboard pumping out data as my team makes progress. Take for example this SEO reporting dashboard I made and embeded into a portal for one of the clients.

Client SEO reporting dashboard

Now anytime clients have a spare moment between meetings to catch their breath, they simply log into Copilot to check on deliverable status, milestone progression, budget burn rates — whatever KPIs keep them motivated without the hassle of chasing me down.

The best part is how self-service visibility reinforces loyalty in the process. Empowering clients to monitor workflows, exchange feedback, and rally the troops with a comprehensive view removes friction and doubt.

And they definitely recognize the commitment to an open-book approach sharing behind-the-scenes through unrestricted portal access 24/7. That accountability translates into rewarding trust and partnership expanding long after initial contracts wrap.

8. Show appreciation through kind gestures

Beyond reliable service, showing genuine care for clients as people through small gestures cultivates the rapport that sparks referrals and client retention. When you make the first move celebrating their wins and milestones with a gift, heartfelt card, or touching shoutout on social media, it conveys a deep appreciation for them choosing you.

And who doesn’t love a surprise delivery thanking them for their business? These meaningful moments make clients feel valued beyond transactions. It spotlights your commitment to their personal success and satisfaction, not just executing projects clinically devoid of a human connection.

That foundation of trust and care pays dividends for future communication too. Your gestures open the door for candid check-ins on evolving needs without awkwardness. And when issues eventually emerge, your rapport cushions tensions so level-headed resolutions happen quickly.

Simply conveying an interest in a client’s pursuits outside work or remembering little details about family they mention deepens affinity remarkably over time. Before you know it, you’ve developed a prosperous relationship where glowing testimonials seem almost guaranteed thanks to carefully nurtured goodwill.

9. Ask for feedback (when appropriate)

It’s easy to wait until contract renewal time to ask clients for honest feedback. But just try explaining pricing increases plus major service changes they request all at once — it gets awkward.

The key for you is checking in with simple feedback questions at natural milestones as you work together. Things like, “What’s going well or needs tweaking on my end to excel?” after finishing a website launch or big marketing project keeps you both aligned.

Getting client input early when adjustments are smaller fosters openness on both sides to discuss what really matters most to them. You learn how to better tailor your approach to satisfy their priorities before small issues snowball into satisfaction problems or lost business.

The key is inviting two-way collaboration often so you both have room to grow the engagement. Keep it low stakes like asking, “On a scale of 1-10, how happy are you with my services lately?” Hearing the good, bad, and ugly gives you the power to transform their experience for the better.

And what client doesn’t love a consultant eagerly incorporating ideas to exceed expectations? Seamless enhancements emerging from client insights drives loyalty and satisfaction long-term.

10. Celebrate their milestones

If you love what you do, one of the most fulfilling parts of client work is getting to be part of your client’s journey as they grow. You always want to make sure to celebrate when they reach meaningful milestones.

Whether it’s sending a bottle of bubbly for landing a huge account, a gift card to enjoy with family when the business hits a revenue goal, or giving a social media shoutout for a major product launch, acknowledge their big wins.

Beyond a thoughtful gift, the act of recognizing achievements on important days resonates emotionally. It spotlights that you don’t view your relationship as merely transactional. You empathize with their pressures to perform and the sacrifice needed to succeed.

And I find that when clients feel deeply seen and supported as humans on their quest, it brings us closer. They open up more about anxieties holding them back or exciting visions they finally have the momentum to chase.

Strengthening this heart connection cultivates trust and care on both sides. Your guidance becomes more attuned to their needs because you understand their motivations. In turn, client loyalty grows thanks to you being invested in their fulfillment beyond just invoices.

Build client relationships with Copilot

Copilot client portal software

As you now know, client service essentials like deadlines, communication, transparency, and appreciation all shape rapport with customers. But juggling those touchpoints across ongoing relationships can distract you from the big picture.

That's where a tool like Copilot can be invaluable. Beyond best practice strategies, Copilot centralizes relationship building, so you can focus on nurturing strong connections with clients constantly without added hassle.

Through Automations for welcome messages, contractual anniversaries, and more, Copilot makes consistent gestures feel effortless. Real-time notifications make sure you respond to messages promptly with care. Easily shareable client portals make project status and reporting fully visible.

Copilot aims at the high friction points of delighting and retaining customers so you can implement the most impactful engagement approaches, not fight lagging workflows. And with customization for each client's unique priorities and voice built-in, your customer experience becomes personal rather than procedural.

If you’re ready to take your business to the next level, be sure to play around with Copilot’s demo portal and see the power for yourself!