Client Loyalty Expert Deb Brown: Smart Ways to Retain Customers
MINNEAPOLIS: Taking care of existing clients is a much faster path to cash than pursuing new clients.
According to Brown, the experience the customer has determines their loyalty and retention. Client retention makes a huge impact on your bottom line, but it also makes your job more fun when you have ongoing relationships with your favorite clients.
Often, businesses focus on prospects, says Brown. They give attention, nurturing, and lots of touches to bring prospects through the sales process. Sometimes, when they come to the end of the sales process and make the sale, business owners breathe a sigh of relief and then stop paying attention.
Big mistake, says Brown.
Here are several ways Brown advises smart business owners to take care of those profitable, existing clients:
Properly Onboard Clients. Onboarding is a key point where you can change the way you do business and make a big impact on your clients. Clients, at that time, may be feeling a little bit apprehensive about the investment they just made. They may be feeling excited about starting to work with your business, but if you stop the communication, the excitement wanes and they may be a little unsure about what comes next.
Don't Let Them Feel Taken For Granted. When you are in the thick of a client relationship and you've been working together for months or years, clients can start to feel taken for granted. Clients stay with the businesses that care about them, so there must be an ongoing nurture of the relationship.
Think Next Steps. While you are doing a good job of taking care of your clients, you should also be looking ahead to their next steps. If you work with clients on an ongoing basis, this will be their contract renewals. For businesses that work on a project or program basis, it may be leading them to the next program or project that you can help them with. It might also be your clients graduating and becoming alumni.
Focus, Focus, Focus On Retention. According to research published by Harvard Business School, a mere 5 percent increase in retention will increase profits anywhere from 25 percent to 95 percent. (The Economics of E-Loyalty. HBS Working Knowledge. July 10, 2000). Clearly client retention has a bigger impact on the bottom line than acquiring new clients. Bain & Company, a leader in global business consulting, reports that repeat customers spend up to 67 percent more in months 31 to 36 than months 0 to 6.
Make Them Aware Of All You Do. Sometimes clients aren't aware of all the things you do that you can help them with. As projects or contracts come to a close, be sure to share with them other opportunities to work with you. If you have built loyalty, they are likely to want to continue working with you.
Initially, most businesses focus on what they do and how they do it, says Brown. It is easy to become wrapped up in internal processes and the way things have always been done. If you want to know how to retain customers, you need to step outside your own processes and consider what it is like from the customer's perspective.