The way you treat your clients today has an immediate impact on the strength of your business tomorrow.

Beverly Koehn, author of Loyalty Is Love: How to Hold Clients Close for Life, believes that a client care program that creates deep levels of loyalty to your firm begins with your staff. “Your people are your company’s frontline representatives,” Koehn says, “so it’s important that you consider how they are being perceived by your clients. Are they an asset or a liability?”

Word Wise

One way that employees send a message to clients, Koehn points out, is their use of vocabulary: “Are your employees well spoken? And do they know how to use words to diffuse difficult situations, to soothe ruffled feathers, and to avoid making a poor situation worse?

“Ninety-five percent of all customer concerns are based on communication difficulties,” Koehn notes. “So don’t let this happen! Err on the side of over-communicating. Don’t wait to get back to your clients with information, and for heaven’s sake, don’t make them have to reach out to you a second time! Keep them in the loop.”

Stand Clear

Body language is another form of communication that we often neglect to consider. “Be sure to look clients in the eye,” Koehn says. “If I can’t see someone’s eyes, I’m wondering if they just got out of prison! Look at the way your employees are dressed. Do they have on a grungy T-shirt with an offensive saying, or tattoos covering arms and legs? This may not be the person that you want representing your company to your clients.”

Other suggestions: Don’t stand closer than arms’ length to another person. “Any closer and you are invading their personal space and it’s uncomfortable,” Koehn says. Understand that when you’re communicating with a client, information is shared, so be prepared to take notes. But please, take your notes on something that’s appropriate. “I’ve seen guys in the field write notes on their arms or their hands!” she says. “I just pray they don’t sweat!”

Watch for other forms of communication. Bumper stickers could potentially get you into trouble because they “put strong beliefs right out there for everyone to see,” Koehn says. “Your clients might not agree with those beliefs and find the stickers offensive. This is the type of little thing that can send customer loyalty down the tubes.”

And finally, pay attention to the sensitive areas such as the need for breath mints or someone who smells strongly of smoke. Though these elements of a customer interaction may seem minor, this is the type of memory that can stick with a client ... and erode the loyalty that you’ve worked so hard to create.

—Victoria Downing is president of Remodelers Ad­vantage, helping remodelers build consistently profitable companies.; 301.490.5620.