15 Oct 2018
7 Habits for Building Stronger Client Relationships
Enduring client relationships are a key measure of business success for many professionals: financial advisors, consultants, salespeople, service specialists. We do our best to nurture these valued client relationships, within the limitations of over-scheduled workdays and never-ending to-do lists.
However, in terms of dollars and cents, client retention is even more precious than you might think. According to numerous studies, it costs companies from five to 25 times more to acquire a new customer than to keep an existing one. The numbers vary, but the conclusion does not: client acquisition is more costly than client retention.
Furthermore, even a small increase in client retention makes a difference. In the financial services industry, a mere 5% increase in customer retention translates to a 25% increase in profit, according to a leading management consultancy. That’s because long-term customers are highly likely to purchase additional products from you over time, while your service-related operating costs are likely to decline.
Unfortunately, in the endless chase for new business, it’s easy to get complacent when it comes to long-term clients. That’s dangerous! Rethink how you service your long-term clients; don’t take their customer loyalty for granted. If you think you could do better, make an effort to build more client-retention focused habits—starting with our top seven.
Seven Habits for Building Stronger Client Relationships
- Be Unfailingly Responsive
No matter how busy your day, always respond within 24 hours to clients’ phone calls and emails. If you absolutely can’t, ask someone else in your office do so, or shoot them a quick email that you’ll call them tomorrow. More than anything, this demonstrates to clients that you’re there for them.
- Communicate Proactively
Check-in with your clients regularly to make sure everything is running smoothly. (Put it on your calendar if needed.) In addition, create opportunities to touch base with clients, such as sharing company news and forwarding links to content you think might interest them. If you haven’t published a client e-newsletter in a while, bump it up on your priority list.
- Always Keep Your Promises
If you promise you’ll deliver a proposal or call at a certain time, do it. If there’s an unavoidable delay, let your client know in advance—and reschedule immediately. Never give clients a reason, however small, to worry that you might not keep your commitments .
Look for Opportunities to Add Value
Learn what you can about your clients’ priorities and goals, and brainstorm ways you might be able to help. If it’s a business-to-business relationship, do some background research on the company; see where you might fit in. It’s a small thing, but when you send an email that says “this made me think of you”—along with a link to some interesting industry news—it won’t go unnoticed.
- Ask for Feedback. Listen. Repeat.
When you conduct those “how’s it going” check-ins with clients, make sure you ask directly for feedback on your performance. Keep in mind: 96% of unhappy customers never complain, but 91% of them leave. Don’t allow that to happen! If a client does offer a criticism, however mild, resist the urge to downplay it or get defensive—consider it, own it and address it head on.
- Meet Face-to-Face When Possible
When you first wooed your long-term client, you probably pushed for an in-person meeting—after all, it’s the best way to close a deal. But these days, you most likely communicate largely by phone and email. Technology is a wonderful timesaver, but it’s no substitute for face-to-face human contact. You’ll always learn more from a client—new opportunity, anyone?—when you’re sitting across a table or desk. Request face-to-face meetings periodically—or, at the very least, video conferencing.
- Be a Connector
Chances are, you’re already a proficient networker. You’re skilled at meeting people and forming casual business relationships. Take it to the next level: when it makes sense to do so, introduce your clients to contacts that they may benefit from knowing. When you help clients form potentially useful relationships, you also strengthen your own.
Client Relationships and The 80/20 Rule
Yes, creating customer loyalty takes a good deal of time and effort—something few of us have to spare. But keep in mind: according the time-honored80/20 rule, chances are, about 80% of your book of business comes from about 20% of your clients.
So while you’re building new-and-improved service habits, take the time to identify your most-valued client relationships. Whose customer loyalty is most important to you? Where does client retention matter most? Whether you call them top-tier clients or A-listers or simply your best customers, when it comes to building client relationships, that’s where to focus your efforts.