Recently, during an accounting conference, the speaker asked the question, “where do most of your new clients come from?”
“I get a lot from social media,” one attendee said. “A local attorney refers many of my new clients,” said another attendee. “Cold calls,” said another. “Direct mail.”
After all the obvious answers were given, there was a hushed silence in the room as people thought about other ways they get—and could get—new clients.
“Referrals from other clients,” was finally blurted out from across the room. In the effort to grow business, sometimes we forget to focus on our most valuable asset: the client.
The Chartered Institute of Marketing estimates it can cost up to 30 times more to get a new customer than to retain a current customer. They also make the point that lifetime value of a customer includes everything ever bought from you today, tomorrow, and in the years ahead.
How do you create loyal clients and protect your business? Excellent service alone doesn’t build customer loyalty and referrals. Customer loyalty comes from excellent client experiences. Here are 7 ways you can ensure your customers have an excellent client experience:
Be on the Ball. The speed in which you respond to an email or phone call can make a huge impression on clients. Yet, when you are swamped, you may not be able to get back with them as quickly as you would like to. In those instances, let them know what to expect. An email reply or quick call saying when you can respond will make a big difference. During busy season, some accountants even send an email to all clients letting them know that they’ll return messages between 3-4 p.m. each day.
- Keep Your Word. Deliver what you say you will, when you say you’ll deliver it. Clients need you to respect deadlines and honor your commitments.
- Tell each of your clients they are unique. While you may have 20 clients with the same issues on their tax returns, each client doesn’t want to feel like just another number. Make them feel unique and that you’ve customized a solution just to meet their needs; after all, nothing really is cookie-cutter!
- Be honest. Share your knowledge, but don’t hide it if you don’t know something. Let clients know your plan for finding out crucial information or refer them to someone who can help them. No one expects you to know everything and they’ll respect you for your honesty.
- Understand client expectations. Don’t make assumptions! Make the effort to understand their expectations and to meet them, if possible. The only way to do this is to communicate with clients on a regular basis. Set up time to check in with them, either in person or via the phone. Your personal attention will mean a lot.
- Turn whines into wins. When you have a dissatisfied customer, listen and acknowledge their complaints, then create a solutions’ plan. Clients frequently forgive an error if it is resolved to their satisfaction. They move from frustrated to staunch supporters if you handle the complaint well.
- Be thankful for their business. Never take your clients for granted. Think about the businesses you enjoy working with. What do they do to earn your business? How can you replicate these ideas? A card on the client’s birthday or a Thanksgiving campaign to let them know you’re thankful for their business adds a great personal touch.
Regardless of what you do, taking good care of their business, being responsive, and giving them the time they deserve will generate goodwill.
Client relationships are an essential part of any business, whether you are in public practice or work in business and industry. By ensuring every customer interaction leaves the client feeling satisfied with your service and professionalism, you’ll go a long way to keeping clients and getting referrals. The tips in this article aren’t revelations, but they can make the difference between building a successful practice and a fledgling one.
What are some of your own retention strategies? Does your firm or company have a retention plan in place you follow? Email your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.