Client (or customer) retention is essential to the survival of any business. First, understand that client retention produces more long-term value and costs less than customer acquisition; convincing a customer already familiar with your brand to buy again will always take less money and effort than introducing a new user to your brand from scratch. Similarly, effectively retaining a customer means you’ll position yourself for multiple transactions down the road — not just one immediate transaction, as is usually the focus in customer acquisition (and this is especially valuable for subscription customers or retainer clients).
The trouble is, even with a stellar product and adept customer service managers, it’s possible for your retention rates to underperform. How can you fight back against this?
Infrastructural improvements are always a possibility, but I tend to favor more manageable solutions as a front-line approach. Try these easy-to-adopt strategies to improve client retention in your own business:
1. Use numbers to prove your value. Customer transactions are an exchange of value — it’s that simple. Customers give you money for a product or a service that they expect will offer utility of more worth than what they invested. Accordingly, your job as an agency should be to prove your worth as objectively and logically as possible — and numbers are the way to do it. For a marketing or advertising business, this might mean proving ROI (return on investment), the amount of new revenue your client receives for your efforts. For a B2C company’s product, this might mean proving quality of life factors like increased efficiency or greater satisfaction. Again, numbers are crucial here; prove instead of persuade.
2. Communicate constantly. Most client relationships break down when there is some lack of communication. For example, a client may not be able to reach you, or you may have miscommunicated a key detail about the campaign. To resolve this, communicate often and as accurately as possible. It’s hard to monitor this, but the more touchpoints you have, the fewer gaps there will be, which means fewer vulnerabilities for your relationship to decay. Offer meetings as needed, and offer exchanges in between those meetings. Proactively identify problems or mistakes, boast your accomplishments when they happen, and don’t be afraid to admit your mistakes.
3. Under-promise and over-deliver. You can also improve client retention with a simple policy of under-promising and over-delivering. Missed expectations are a big reason for client departures, and these two steps are the way to repair those expectations. Before committing to anything (such as a deadline, a performance metric, or a certain service), do your research and form a reasonable expectation of your capacity. Then, promise a little less than you think you can handle (e.g., delivery Wednesday instead of Monday). From there, it should be easy for you to exceed expectations consistently. Remember, what clients remember isn’t what expectations you’ve set, but how effective you were at meeting those expectations.
4. Add personal touches. No matter how digitized our society becomes, people will still crave human interaction. Adding personal touches to your work does a number of things for your brand, all of which increase customer retention. First, your company is humanized; people have a harder time parting with a business that has a human face. Second, your brand remains top of mind; because they think about you more often, you’re automatically seen as more favorable. Third, personal touches give you an opportunity to get feedback on your brand. As for the personal touches themselves? That’s up to you — muffin baskets and physical thank-you notes are good ways to start.
5. Evolve with the times. One of the best ways to prove your value to a client isn’t how you’ve fared in the past or what you’re like in the present, but rather how you’re going to be in the future. Prove to your client that you’re actively investing in yourself by upgrading your technologies, offering new products to customers, and generally evolving with the times. When clients look for new vendors, they aren’t looking for someone who can meet their needs today — they’re looking months, if not years down the line. If you’re the option with the greatest potential for the future, they’ll never want to leave you (even during hiccups in your relationship).
Obviously, an article like this can’t capture the true scope of client retention; these strategies don’t address every possible client retention problem, nor is this meant to be taken as a comprehensive list. Instead, this should serve as an initial direction to help you proactively identify better ways to retain clients. Because even a handful of retention success can mean ongoing value for your business, you owe it to yourself to prioritize this; don’t let your best clients slip through your fingers.
For more content like this, be sure to check out my podcast, The Entrepreneur Cast!