Published: 08 September 2010
Are you really looking after your clients?’ I mean really?
Because if you’re not, then you can pretty much guarantee somebody else will do it for you.
Many agencies will tell you that retaining clients and managing those relationships is at the forefront of their minds, hearts, and their core values.
The general consensus appears to be that it is 5 times harder to win new clients than to keep and retain current clients. So it goes without saying if you want an easier life looking after the clients you currently have, then customer satisfaction needs to be pretty high on the agenda regardless of what type of business or organisation you work for.
Many clients (especially the happy ones) will typically commission more than one project (therefore you have a stronger likelihood of being able to rely on repeat work) and most new clients will ask for references, so client satisfaction is important.
But what does ‘satisfaction’ mean? In short satisfaction is directly related to a client's perception of you and then the actual realisation you delivered as hoped.
Customer Satisfaction = Positive Perception Realised To illustrate, if a client perceives service to be at a certain level but expects something higher then they will be nearly always feel dissatisfied. To make things harder some won't even complain and tell you where you could have done better, they just won’t come back.
So why repeatedly do so many companies sometimes neglect existing clients?
Here are a few possibilities:
• Repeat work can become expected and almost taken for granted
• Winning new clients is viewed as a challenge/more fun
• Marketing plans and budgets are generally aimed at winning new clients rather than improving current client relationships.
‘Client management’ or ‘relationship management’ or 'customer services' are phrases often banded about but, simply, these are all in effect buzzwords to try and tell the outside world your clients get the right level of service and support.
But in reality, the service you provide is not about words or departments you have in place, rather it's about the time, the quality and the effort you put in to really making a difference to your client.
But even these factors alone won’t make a satisfied client. Clients don’t just buy service, they expect it – what makes the fundamental difference is how you MANAGE the relationship. Clients expect to be central to your attention, so whatever you do, ensure your client FEELS like they are your only client, even though they KNOW they are not.
If you can SECURE your client’s loyalty, you won’t have to worry about others poaching them.
So how do you go about successfully developing your company's approach to looking after clients? Here are a few essential steps to get it right:
• Ensure that each key client has a relationship contact that is committed to developing your client's business not just yours!
• Be objective as to who this is and try and associate the right relationship manager with the right client
• Develop a key account plan for each key client and don't charge for this
• most importantly in my opinion ask your existing clients how you can serve them better and then actually act on the advice
• Focus on your existing clients and build the business relationships
• if you need more work, go to existing clients first
• If you need new clients, decide who you really want to work for and design them a specific offer
• When a prospective client shows interest, listen to what they have to say and act on it.
So how do you decide whom your key clients are? Is it based on the:
• Size of client?
• Amount of work secured?
• Best relationship?
• Potential for new work?
Ideally, a mixture of the above factors should help you identify, say, 20-30 key clients who are regularly contacted. But you should also have a larger database of contacts that receive regular mailshots – these all need to know you are still alive and care. They need to be kept in the loop as to how you can help them achieve their business objectives.
It has been said, “What you do with your billable time determines your current income but what you do with your non-billable time determines your future.”
So we must continually ask ourselves ‘Are we all spending our non-billable hours constructively?’
Whoever manages a relationship, their responsibility should be to fully understand the client and their business, their preferred method of operating, their business drivers, the opportunities they are looking for, their problems, and ways you can help, etc. The aim is not to just call asking for work, but to ask how their business is doing.
A simple rule is 'Be willing to give without always expecting something back.'
Focus on making your key contacts look great and not just the business they work for, after all the people you form friendships and working relationships with are your future customers when they decide to move on.
Retention of key clients is crucial and it is easy to take good relationships for granted. So put simply, don't.
However, there will always be someone else offering something you don’t, so constantly review and improve your services by understanding the market and what your competitors offer and be willing to adapt accordingly.
The key to good client management is to understand your client both as an individual and as part of the business he represents.
Remember if you don’t care about your client someone else will.
If you want to feel like a number one client and are looking for a new digital agency or assistance of any kind with a new or existing Sitecore or Umbraco project, please get in touch.