How good a job does your organization do retaining clients, especially in tough economic times?
Since it’s six times easier (and less expensive) to keep an existing client than it is to acquire a new one, this strategy is worth your attention. Well, I had a conversation with a successful business owner that provided some very useful insight.
I was speaking with Debra Preble who is Regional Director with Preble-Rish, a civil engineering firm with multiple locations throughout the South. At one point in our visit, Debra dropped a “bombshell” that stopped me in my tracks: Since 1991, her company has NEVER lost a client. Want to learn more? Read on. Debra says it’s all about relationships. Specifically, she employs a program of regular personal contact. In addition, and I thought this was very proactive, she prepares for change. In other words, over the years people come and go from the client businesses she serves.
To maintain the favorable relationship, she gets out in front of changes BEFORE they occur, constantly forging new relationships. Because so much of their work is based on RFP (request for proposal), if the relationship is not good enough prior to the RFP, they don’t participate until it is. How’s that for accountability and discipline! Another “gem” that Debra shared was the reminder that the world is a small place. People that you meet now you will invariably meet later, either on their up or down the ladder of success. Consequently, always keep your interactions positive. One last thing from Debra: She says honesty and integrity go a long way and, to that she adds, “Do what you say you will do and at that price.”
Through my experience I want to add a few points to Debra’s sage advice above. First, always deliver value and, most importantly, keep score. By this I mean calculate or measure the value of your product or service to clients and let them know periodically approximately what that is worth. Next, remember that “the little things” make a big difference”, positively or negatively. Acknowledge birthdays, anniversaries, specific recognitions, etc. and try to be the first to do this. Your clients will really remember you for it. Next, seek periodic feedback from your clients and then (surprise!) act on their suggestions if appropriate. Ask them how they feel about your product or service, what you could do differently, better, etc. Then do something about it and let them know you did it.
Another important consideration: the way you (the Leader) treat your Team trickles down to how the Team treats your clients. Be guided accordingly. One last point for building client retention: Diligently seek to give your clients a referral of someone that is a great prospect for their business. Accomplish this once a month and you’ll keep that client for life. Adopt one strategy and refine it to fit the needs of your organization. Then move on to the next. Remember, change doesn’t have to be monumental, only incremental. Small changes over time add up to big results!
Brad Sugars founded the brand Action International in 1993 when he realized there was a disconnect between business advice and implementation. The answer was Action! Brad Sugars created a business coaching company so that business owners throughout the world can realize their goals in business. Today the company is known as ActionCOACH. To learn more about business, visit Brad Sugars Review blog