Ensuring an optimal customer experience is crucial for the success of any organization in the business of selling a product or service. But oftentimes, creating a functional website, updating your social media and sending newsletters regularly is simply not enough for creating a quality experience. To retain and acquire new clients, you need to build a close relationship with them and treat them as valuable partners, and even friends, instead of a mere source of income.

What are some of the best ways an organization can build rapport with clients, especially in the early stages of the relationship? These seven entrepreneurs discuss their favorite methods below.

Set the standard from the beginning.

"Set your customer experience up right by setting a standard from the beginning," FenSens founder and CEO Andy Karuza suggests, explaining that these standards should cover as much as possible of a business's communication strategies, including how fast you respond initially and how exactly you do respond.

This will set the expectation for how customers will be treated in the future and will have a major impact on their opinion of you, Karuza explains. "If you provide a good experience in a timely manner upfront before making the sale, they're likely to trust you'll take care of them later if any issues arise."

Ask more questions.

To improve user experience, any business should do its best to know its customers well, beyond the service provided. "We have an SEO agency and I always encourage our account managers to ask more questions about the business itself," says Karl Kangur, founder and CEO of Above House.

Business owners and leaders love to see other people taking an interest in and caring about the work they do and why they do it, Kangur believes. "We ask them why they started the company, how they chose the products, where they manufacture and why, and much more."

Be there for your customer.

In most cases, being there for your customers, even if you cannot fully satisfy their needs, will help strengthen your relationship and earn you a special place in their hearts, says Honest Paws co-founder Chelsea Rivera.

"Our products are for the benefits of pets. We've had a couple of customers express how their best friends have passed away, and to be there for them, we sent a condolence card to each one as a sign of strength," Rivera explains. "They have been an extremely important part of our success, and we wanted to show how much we appreciate that."

Learn how they want to communicate.

Companies can also improve their customer experience by being mindful of what customers want, even in terms of communication. "Over the years, we have had clients that preferred text over email, and other clients that found text messages to be intrusive. Some don't want 'monthly meetings' and would rather communicate with our team daily in a Slack channel," explains Dan Golden, president of BFO (Be Found Online).

According to Golden, businesses should be more flexible in this respect and adapt to meet their customers' requirements. "Many service providers have standard operating procedures that sometimes exclude their customer preferences, which is a huge miss," he adds.

Spend time together in person.

"Instead of communicating only through email or over the phone, if you want to build a good rapport with a new client or colleague, spend some time with them in person," OptinMonster co-founder and president Thomas Griffin advises. 

Whenever possible, business leaders or account managers should make time to go out for lunch or coffee with their customers in order to build a rapport face to face. "As a remote company, we don't always have the opportunity to do this, but we can always hop on a Zoom call with new clients or colleagues instead," Griffin adds.

Remember the little things.

When first starting a relationship, remembering the small things about your customer can have the biggest impact on how your relationship grows moving forward and how they will come to feel about your brand. 

"I was once working with a gentleman who, early on, commented that he loved pulled pork sandwiches," Behavioral Signals CEO Rana Gujral recounts, talking about the importance of remembering the little details. "Down the road, I picked up lunch and grabbed him just that. He was thrilled I remembered, and our relationship grew from that day forward."

Share common goals.

The best way to build rapport with a new client or colleague is to find commonalities to build a foundation on, thinks Matthew Podolsky, founder of Florida Law Advisers, P.A. Such commonalities may include shared interests and acquaintances or even a shared background.

"Figuring this out will help you get to know one another and create the grounds for building a deeper connection," Podolsky underlines. "This foundation will help you work to accomplish common business goals."