The Art of Building Client Relationships With Empathy

building client relationships

Let’s cut to the chase: Empathy can be the key to building real client relationships. And building real client relationships can be the key to building a successful business that sustains itself until the end of time.

It’s not surprising, right? After all, we all want to feel that our experiences and feelings are valid and respected. Take it from Meridee of LaserQuit, who said:

"Empathy is the key to all of LaserQuit’s success. We have to be understanding and connect with people who are having difficulty or struggling through the process of quitting any addiction.

— Meridee Hlokoff  | 

So, how do you actually connect with your clients?

1 | Be an actual person.

You’ve also probably seen this called authenticity. When it comes to being authentic with your customers and connecting with your audience, remember that the weird things about you may be what make your clients want more.

The people who hire you are nuanced people with unique situations, and they want to work with a service provider who shows their humanity, too. Audrey says it perfectly:

“Your clients are human beings with complex and complicated lives and it's important to understand who you are serving. I meet them where they're at and allow them to relax and feel supported in our relationship.”

— Audrey Holst |

Whether it takes the form of hopping on a few calls a week without putting on makeup, or wearing your favorite “ugly” sweater on the regular, showing who you are can be the first step to establishing a sustainable relationship.

Think about it this way. You and your clients are constantly taking cues from each other, and subliminally setting expectations for each other. When you rocket out of the gates with your biggest grin and silliest joke, you’re giving your clients permission to be themselves, too.

If you’re putting on a persona, you’re depriving your clients and yourself of meaningful relationships that really make a difference in the world. (Yes, we’re feeling sappy right now. No, we won’t apologize for it.)

2 | Speak like a human.

During this pandemic, virtual communication has become more important than ever. Since we’re seeing less of each other face-to-face, writing and speaking (on video) are the main ways we’re connecting.

When you want to set client expectations and form genuine client relationships, take a look at your language. For example, your standard email greeting and sign-off automatically tells customers and clients about who you are—even if you don’t realize it.

It’s easy to get stuck in 9th-grade English class, talking like a robot who just time traveled from the Victorian era. (That sounds rad, but you’re probably not a robot.) In reality, there’s no need to put double spaces after periods, start letters formally, or keep a straight face.

In fact, showing off your sense of humor is a great way to forge genuine relationships with your people. For anyone who’s written into Acuity for support, you know how seriously we take being unserious while we help.

All of us—even those of us not on the full-time support team—reply to customer emails, infuse them with our personalities, and offer our perspectives for each and every conversation. According to you guys, it seems to pay off. 

“Acuity's customer service is the best and I know there are real humans with a real good sense of humor ready and willing to help me out whenever I need assistance.”

— Audrey Holst | Fortitude & Flow

If you’re not sure what words you actually use in real life, don’t be afraid to use a voice-to-text app, and look for patterns in your speech that you can incorporate into your writing. For example, Google docs has a great free tool for this. Just open up a new document, click on Tools, and select Voice Typing.

Once you have a word bank of how you talk, .

3 | Remember that empathy doesn’t mean “the customer’s always right.”

Sometimes, clients will push against your boundaries that you’ve set in stone. When this happens, showing empathy doesn’t mean that you have to backpedal to fix the situation.

Rather, empathy is a matter of understanding the customer’s point of view and feelings. Once you understand where they’re coming from, you both can get on the same team and problem solve together.

Not only do your customers experience the pure joy of being seen, heard, and understood, but you can more easily find a resolution. As a result, your customer testimonials will improve, creating incredible momentum for your business.

4 | Small talk matters.

You value your clients more than just about anything, and small talk helps them see it. A little goes a long way towards helping people realize how important they are. They aren’t just transactions. They’re the core of why you do what you do.

A simple way to start breezy conversations with clients is to throw them a couple questions. Ask about how they’re doing, if they have any weekend plans, or follow up about something you’ve talked about before. 

Just a minute or two of earnest curiosity can start to establish that bond of trust between the two of you before the first session even begins.

Something we love to do is add personal questions to a general intake form. While you’re gathering up info about their name and number, why not ask what if they’re a sweet or savory sort of person? Why not ask them about the most recent book they’ve read?

By building the sillier questions directly into the form, it gives you something fun to talk about during your discovery call or appointment without ever having met before.


5 | Make yourself reachable.

There’s a time and a place to be the elite—and that time and place is your birthday. Otherwise, ensure that your clients can actually find you, reach you, and get help from you when they need it.

The simplest way to do this is by posting your Acuity Scheduling link wherever you exist online. You’ll be able to set your boundaries (so that you’re being respected), while still offering availability to your clients.

The easier it is for people to schedule appointments and classes with you, the more likely they are to do it. By making your schedule accessible from everywhere, you’re erasing one big hurdle for your clients and staying connected. (It also makes you look outrageously professional—and you don’t even have to put on a blazer.)

Putting your scheduler is a great way to get eyes on your services, but don’t forget about the other places potential customers find you.

If you’ve ever wondered how to effectively promote your consulting business on social media, integrating your scheduler on your or is your best bet. 

Get fully integrated with Acuity today.

6 | Ask questions. Don't assume.

We all see the world through a distorted lens, shaped by who we are and what we’ve been through. As a result, sometimes we jump to wild assumptions about what someone is feeling or why a situation is happening.

Usually, these assumptions are negative, anxiety-inducing, and fixated on the worst-case scenario. 

Luckily, there’s a really simple way to nip unrealistic and untrue assumptions in the bud:

Ask them.

Yep, it’s really that simple. Instead of connecting all the dots on your own with a neon green pen, give them a chance to show you their perspective.

7 | Put yourself in their shoes & practice active listening.

When you’re asking questions, remember that understanding where someone is coming from is the #1 way to diffuse a situation. Once you know why they feel the way they feel, it’s so much easier to create a plan of action and get the problem resolved.

Active listening is a great way to catalyze that connection and shoe-shift. Actively listening looks a little something like this.

  1. Snap out of decision-making mode. When feelings are running hot, push pause on any choices, and simply listen. It’s not a time to react or resolve, simply absorb and process.

  2. Ask how they’re feeling, and why they’re feeling that way.

  3. Repeat their answer back to them to show that you understand (or clarify any sticking points that you missed). Go with something like:“Okay! Thank you so much for explaining this to me, and I want to make sure I completely understand before we keep going with this conversation. I heard that you’re feeling ______________, because of ________________. Is that right?”

  4. Ask how they think you’re feeling, and why you’re feeling that way. (It helps you get an outside perspective on the situation.)

  5. Repeat their answer back to them, Part II.

  6. Watch the situation diffuse, because often, the understanding and empathy is the resolution.

There’s a lot of fascinating science out there about mirror neurons, and the power they have on compassion, but for now we’ll pass the mic to Kiersten, who’s based her business around having heart. 

“In my business, there has to be empathy. So many of my clients are stuck in a job they don't like, or they just recently got laid off. By trying to put myself in their shoes, I can develop a strategy to get them back where they want to be with a resume that conveys confidence, skill, and initiative.”

— Kiersten D. Troutman  | 

8 | Create consistency for your clients.

Any time you can systemize or streamline your process, you’re ensuring that nothing ever slips through the cracks. This means that every client you connect with gets the same 5-star experience as the one before, all without you having to do any extra legwork.

While a lot of empathetic connections begin with unique conversations, your business’ reliability gives your clients the same feelings of being seen, heard, and respected.

When you go the extra mile to deliver a seamless experience, your clients know how much you value them (a metric ton), and how important they are in your life (very).

Ready to build trust and take your business to the next professional level?

Create consistency with Acuity.

Building client relationships is all about being a little patient.

Tricky situations that require high levels of empathy can create tidal waves of self-doubt, anxiety, and dread. This is completely normal. Just like anything in life, the more you practice big empathetic connections, the less stressful and daunting they become.

Real, lasting client connections aren’t a switch that gets flipped overnight. They’re actual relationships that require you to invest your time, love, and patience while you go through the process of understanding others.

Empathy is the core of good client relationships. As we know, good client relationships increase in your client retention, new leads, and lifelong followers make the process well worth it.

But more than that, empathy means you’ll be able to help your clients more than ever.

client relationships, small business strategy, small business