Improving Client Retention
Businesses are often on the hunt for ways of winning new clients, but less time is spent nurturing the hard earned existing client relationships. This is despite the Chartered Institute of Marketing’s research revealing that it costs 10 times more to win a new client than it does to keep an existing one! With the financial climate as it is, it’s a time where more than ever people are shopping around for the best deal, whether they’re happy with suppliers or not.
So how can you improve client retention rates and maximise existing business? Below are a few ideas on how to improve
Before you start thinking about how you can make money out of existing clients, take a moment to simply thank them for choosing you. Try and make it personalised, be it a card, or tickets to see their favourite football team. Imagine how much more open they would be to subsequent sales messages.
Provide dedicated support
Undoubtedly, every client wants to feel important. Whether it’s a dedicated support area on your website, or a freephone care-line, ideas like these aren’t resource intensive, but do provide added value to a service. If you do have a manageable amount of clients, rather than waiting for a call, pick up the phone. You could either operate a reminder service, for appointments or renewal dates, or simply ask if there is anything you can help with.
The idea of having a Client Manager is nothing new, but it has proven a success. Clients are more likely to keep in touch, and be more open. One-on-one support is also something they may be reluctant to give up when they are pestered to switch suppliers.
In business, no news isn’t necessarily good news! Gaining regular feedback at various intervals, be it after a meeting or once a product or service has been implemented, is the perfect opportunity to see how you have performed. Developing a set list of questions will allow you to benchmark your performance and aid ongoing improvement.
Believe it or not, technology can help make this process more personal. Whether you use a simple database or invest in all-singing, all-dancing Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software, you can start to log key notes; what they’ve ordered, when they order it, even their birthday! Conversations can instantly become more of a friendly chat, rather than a chore.
An unusual but welcome tactic is to try and refer work to your clients. Next time a client, colleague or friend is bemoaning the fact they can’t find a supplier, could you match them up with one of your customers? Referring work is the ultimate way of saying thanks, and clearly demonstrates that you value your clients and take an interest in what they do.
Rewarding your clients needn’t be an expensive pastime exclusive to glamorous companies; small businesses can replicate a range of initiatives to equal the effect, improving their client retention rates.
The simplest way of rewarding a client is by providing a discount on subsequent purchase of products or services. It makes clients less likely to shop around, whilst leaving them happy that they have ‘got a deal’. The key is to not mix up discounts with new and existing clients, which would dilute the gesture.
With a number of email programs out there, it is now easy to set up an email-merge to send exclusive offers directly to clients. With built in tracking software, you can also see what offers are most successful. You could also direct them to a landing page on your website or ‘micro-site’, allowing you to display exclusive content in a ‘Client Area’ which they can access quickly.
For businesses that get frequent, repeat business, the use of loyalty cards actively encourages clients to come back for more, increasing their spend with you. A loyalty card could be a simple card that is stamped or something more advanced that can store points and track purchases, revealing trends. The reward could be a free gift, product or lead to further benefits. You could go further with the idea by developing it into a Member Card, where partnerships with other businesses result in further benefits to your clients.
Launching a new product? Then why not host an exclusive event for your clients so they get the first look? If you’re in the service industry, traditionally inviting clients to an event has been a great way to reinforce a good working relationship and it also provides an excellent networking opportunity for all. If you have a large client base, then you could start ‘breakfast clubs’ and similar regular events to boost business and your client relationships
..and custom rewards you!
Happy clients can help you win new ones. Ask them if they’d be happy to provide a testimonial or even better, ask if they can help you create a case study which can be used for marketing purposes. You may also find happier clients are more easily persuaded by up-selling (purchasing a better, but more expensive alternative of what you provide them).
Having ensured your clients are happy with you, they will be more likely to do the leg-work for you, directing other businesses to you because of their recommendation.
How ISO 9001 can help
Good customer service is key to retaining clients, as it is for winning new ones. Proving you meet a standard for it is quite difficult, however. But help is as hand with the ISO 9001 quality management standard, which addresses customer service by requiring you to determine customer requirements. The standard also then requires a system for communicating with clients, with processes in place in order to deal with any problems involving them.
Companies that have achieved ISO 9001 certification have said how the standard has helped them provide better customer service, which has resulted in them winning more business. By achieving a recognised international standard like ISO 9001, it also gives yet another reason for a client to stay with you.