Sunday, July 1, 2012

Is Client Retention a Real Dilemma?


I recently got an opportunity to present a webinar on “Client Retention – A Dilemma” and it was amazing to see the feedback of the attendees. I got good feedbacks and bundle of questions in my inbox the next day. Few of them stated that they know about the good client retention strategies. However, most of them were not sure about the outcome of their strategies and were confused whether they go with the ‘X’ or ‘Y’ or may be look for the ‘Z’.

Before presenting the webinar I too got lost for sometime, it was tough to pick a good strategy and tag it as “best” keeping in mind the business need. Client retention strategies sometimes are like choosing the best option at random and praying that it works for you. And if that doesn’t work, you end up seeing yourself in profound regret. However, with a planned and right approach an organization/firm can implement a good strategy and gain trust of their clients. Though, it would be difficult to give an assurance that the chosen approach would let that organization/firm retain their client in the long run. So, I choose to keep apart the topic of ‘Client Retention – A Dilemma’ and look for questions which many professionals and organizations ask to themselves:

a) How do I increase my profit margin in the present economical break down?
b) When is the right time to look for options and dive in with a full proof plan?
c) Which strategy to choose and implement to sustain my business interest?

After, working on these few points I realize one can very well face these questions if he/she is thinking as per the client retention strategies. Since globalization everyone has one question in their mind, how to gain clients’ trust and earn good profit margin at the same time. This is one vision which in spite of the size of the organization or firm (big, medium or small) everyone has. This has also given a right and simple answer to such organizations that they can grow and make profit if they are able to retain their client for long. Though, client retention is not a one time process and requires a continuous approach with analytical and research skills, a big challenge is to study the ever changing economical conditions and understanding the complex behaviors of clients at the same time.

Provider’s Approach + Quality + Ethics + Satisfactory Service = Client Retention

We can divide ‘Client Retention’ into two parts:

First, in which service provider’s course of action and image gets reflected through their overall skill sets, ethical practices, quality services and most importantly proactive approaches towards getting the work and providing best services to their clients.

Secondly, it depends upon the Clients’ satisfaction and their willingness to come back again and give work to the existing provider.

Undoubtedly, every provider wants to experience the second scenario in each and every case. But, the real problem arises when they fail to execute the planning and end up loosing their client with loss of business and more over an existing business lead. We all know that clients are served by processes and it is important to look for right process for the right client. Every now and then we see experts’ researches, which focus on client retention’s problems. However, the problems which come in my mind are the implemented procedures and its poor executions by the providers. It is important to estimate and evaluate every single step and act accordingly to build a strong bridge between providers and clients for the mutual benefits. Providers should know about their vision and goal to attract clients and retain them for long.

Here is a small process which can help them in taking the first step towards ‘Client Retention’:



Know Yourself:
Each provider should know about their work culture, environment and the nature of their working. This gives an edge when they approach any client and ask for work or recommendations. A thorough knowledge of your company and work helps in building trust and strong relationship with your present and future clients.

Add Expertise: When you know about yourself you always look for additional expertise which you can add to your skills. So, adding expertise in your company helps in competing with the emerging market competitors. Use of innovative ideas and updated technology gives your company an extra edge and helps you to walk hand in hand with the new emerging global market.

Remove Weakness: It is always advisable to add skills and delete or remove your weakness, if you want to grow in life. Likewise, if providers want to reach the higher level, than they have to Shift + Delete (permanent deletion) their weaknesses and have to add strength to growth and achieve success.

Act Quick & Smart: Providers should keep in their minds that it is easy to know and add expertise but the real test is their instant reaction to a LIVE scenario. So, with the above points, one should have the right approach and understanding towards the execution and working in day-to-day world.

Keep Improving: The above listed points are not a one time strategy. It is a continuous process and requires continuous improvement to achieve the goal of creating a favorable environment for a client friendly approach and a step towards retaining a client.

Few points on Client Retention:

“A single idea, if right, saves us the labor of an infinity of experiences”
- Jacques Maritain

Studies have shown that approximately every organization/firm uses client retention strategy to run their business interest. However, only few are confident about their approaches and know what they are doing will benefit their clients and in return help them adding revenue and building clients’ trust. Few of the points which I thought to share with you:

a.)
Maintaining the Existing Database – ‘Know Your Clients’: Every provider has their own database for their existing clients and they work accordingly to provide satisfactory services and maintain the account well. However, provider should focus on segmenting that database to know everything related to their clients (organisations or individuals). This includes the details like: 


i. How long is the relationship with the client?
ii. In the beginning, which specific services client was looking for? 
iii. What additional services I am able to offer? 
iv. How much interest client has shown in the additional offers? 
v. How frequently I interact with the clients?
vi. How sound is the relationship?
vii. Is the client confident enough to recommend me to others? 
viii. Tracking the clients’ feedback, complaints, important days and/or events (personal/ professional) related to them

b.) Adding value to the strategies for each client:
After segmenting the data, provider should work on the ‘Specific Approach Strategy’ (Giving importance, as per the business needs and feedbacks) for each client. 

c.) Building Trust: To gain the trust and confident of the existing clients it is important for providers to implement ethical practices and honest approach in the operations. Implementing best IT infrastructure in place to ensure confidentiality and security of the data or any small information provided by the client will help the providers to build a strong relation. Clients may need to be convinced that the providers they have selected are true experts with the confidentiality and security system in place and are not over promising about their services.

d.) Proper use of communication channel: Using a right communication channel to address clients is a key to success. Providers should use a proper channel for a smooth and error free communication with their existing clients. Every client should be informed about the updated expertise and unique offers provider has for them. With emergence of social media and other marketing channel it is easy to target your segmented market. However, as this strategy is being used by everyone else in the market now days, chances are your competitor is using it rigorously and can attract your existing client with their lucrative offers. You have to make sure that you planned it right and do not leave any margin for even a small error. Service provider can use social media platform like: LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Blogging, etc with other good strategies like e-mail marketing, newsletters, organizing or attending an event/seminar, promoting knowledge through Education-Based Marketing, etc. All these will allow provider to be touch with the clients and increase referrals, strengthen client loyalty and build good image in market.

e.) Handling Existing Clients’ Account: It is believed that good customer service is the most important aspect of running a business. A polite, friendly and helpful approach to maintain a single or variety of existing clients’ account helps providers to do well in the market and build credentials. Providers should hear their client and carry a fair, honest and reliable approach while communicating and providing best possible solutions to their clients. Regular communication with your existing clients will go a long way in helping you to understand their needs, tasks and requirements at hand. Drawing attention of the clients on the key areas that requires improvement will give your client an idea that you are thinking for their betterment and would not mind taking your advice or your services.

f.) Loyalty Programs: These days, providers use loyalty programs like: discounts, special offers, etc to keep their existing clients busy and attracting them with discounts and other exciting offers. So, to keep clients within the reach, provider can implement this strategy to gain advantage. This also helps the providers in staying in touch with client and helps building a personal relationship.

g.) Always Welcome Complaints: Though, it is always difficult to interact and maintain a good relationship with an irate and complaining client. It is advisable to proactively hear the complaints and take quick action. Through this approach providers can think of building a long relationship and looking for improvement areas which needs to be fixed for better customer service. It is just a matter of proactive approach with a right solution. As a human everyone is allowed to do mistakes but by taking the responsibility and assuring for quick positive action on the same will help building credentials in a long run.

Welcoming complaints help providers to know the:
I. Do’s & Don’ts they should look for while providing services to the existing clients
II. Current procedure of working
III. Right approach for specific problem

h.) Tracking the results and monitor responses: It is very important for a provider to look for feedback and monitor the responses accordingly. This helps them in improving the work process and gain the confidence of their existing clients. By better feedback response (positive or negative) provider can build a personal and trustworthy relationship with the client.

i.) Mark Your Excellence: For any business and its strategies if the end result is not up to the mark, nothing is going to work and provider would end up loosing their existing clients and business. I am sure the best quality work helps provider in connecting more with clients and getting additional work with satisfied clients’ recommendations. So, without even thinking of result, provider should keep in their mind that giving best quality is most important aspect in any kind of business. Any of the provider’s best or innovative idea will fail if they will fail to perform at their best.

I am a great supporter of continuous improvement and believe that we can retain our clients by measuring and studying the end results and keep improving until we reach our objectives and improve as much as we desire. I am sure with all these small changes we can increase our client satisfaction goal and can face any challenges even in the economical slow down. In the fast changing global market, providers need to work towards comprehending and implementing these kinds of strategy in their current businesses to ensure that their existing clients are turning up again and adding more services. The more number of clients’ association and fewer dropouts in a business help in improving the bottom line and can make the work of provider more rewarding.

Draft n Craft specializes in outsourcing of legal and paralegal services. We have provided more than a handful of advanced solutions to various clients in the U.K. and the U.S.A.; we take immense pleasure in serving all business needs, from the very basic legal undertakings to the most complex and farthest orientations. Contact us

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