Depending on the nature of your business and the number of clients you have, the impact of a client leaving can be devastating. Regardless of how much you have riding on each individual client in your business, it’s in your best interest to maximize your client retention rates.
I’ve covered some general tactics on how to improve customer retention in the past, but for this article I want to take an alternative perspective: focusing on the reasons why customers leave in the first place. From my experience and research, I can quantify 10 main reasons why clients leave their vendors and partners, and there are good ways to prevent each of those motivations:
1. Budget. Sometimes, a business simply runs out of money, or is forced to cut optional services to allow a bigger budget for something more important. This is a hard reason to address, but you do have a few options here — the most effective is coming up with a compromise that allows the client to pay less for a smaller range of services. In this case, you’re still taking a loss, but you’ll retain the client.
2. Value. If the client doesn’t see an objective value, or ROI, in your products and services, they aren’t going to stick around. It isn’t their job to calculate and prove that ROI; it’s yours. Take the time to show your client the value you provide, and do so regularly if you want to secure their impressions of you.
3. Trust. Trust is a huge factor for client retention; if they feel like you aren’t being honest or straightforward with them, they’ll question your value and withdraw their patronage. There’s only one way to prevent that departure, and that’s to be as honest and direct as possible, consistently and from the beginning of the relationship, even when the truth is hard to express.
4. Politics. Occasionally, you’ll run into a problem where one person in your client’s business is excited and happy with your relationship, but a higher-up decision maker questions it. Internal politics can ruin a relationship through no fault of your own, so do your best to get involved at multiple stages of the company.
5. Apathy. When a customer reviews their services, an emotional response will keep them loyal to your brand. A lack of emotion will make them question why they’re paying for you. Fight against apathy by including more positive feelings in your everyday exchanges, such as small surprises and personal touches.
6. Personnel. Your client may grow attached to a particular account manager or staff member on your team. In the event of turnover or a promotion, the change in personnel may prompt them to leave. The best way to address this is to mitigate turnover and train your employees as consistently as possible to reduce volatility under such circumstances.
7. Failure. If you drop the ball on a major project or flat-out screw up, your client may take it as a sign to leave. Reduce this possibility by admitting to your mistakes openly, and working hard to make up for any damages you might have caused in the process.
8. Neglect. Clients require regular attention to feel that their business is appreciated and add strength to the integrity of your partnership. If you aren’t being proactive with communication enough, or if you aren’t including enough personal touches, they may feel as though you’ve abandoned them. Work hard to stay top-of-mind.
9. Needs. Sometimes, clients need change. They may no longer require your services, or may hire an in-house employee to cover what you previously supplied. Unfortunately, there’s no easy way out of this one. You can’t change your client’s needs; all you can do is try to offer them new options for services in line with their new vision, goals, and structure.
10. Competition. Be honest; you aren’t the only supplier in town, and there are competitors who might offer similar services for a lower prices, or better services for the same price. If a client catches wind of a competitor who outprices or outperforms you, they may switch. Therefore, it’s in your best interest to do proactive competitive research and get ahead of these possible departures by identifying your weaknesses, knowing how you stack up to the competition, and eliminating weaknesses while being the best at your strengths.
Clients won’t leave you without a good reason, especially in higher-value partnerships. You owe it to your business to understand the psychology behind a potential client departure, and work proactively to start mitigating the risks in each of these areas. Your client retention strategy isn’t going to be perfect, and it doesn’t have to be; client churn is a part of any business. Your job is to minimize it as much as you can in order to maximize revenue and profits, and keep your customers as happy as can be.
For more content like this, be sure to check out my podcast, The Entrepreneur Cast!