This story by Howard J. Wolff on the American Institute of Architects site, Three Big Reasons Why Clients Leave You . . . and How You Can Win Them Back, starts off with perhaps one of the most important marketing questions/statements you should consider in operating your business:
Where have all your clients gone?
You’ll find that clients leave you for three primary reasons:
- They feel you screwed up; and you never dealt with it satisfactorily.
- They feel neglected; and you haven’t stayed in touch.
- They no longer need the services you offer; and you haven’t checked in to inquire about their current situation.
Most clients leave without raising an issue, they just go. And then they leave behind a trail of lost opportunity and negative word-of-mouth. This stuff is so bad, virtually ensuring that you will pay the price in lost opportunity, wasted marketing expense, and much higher business costs for much lower results.
Wolff correctly points out that you must encourage complaints — and resolve them — before unhappy clients head for the hills, and if you notice clients leaving, you need to find out why, and fix it, fast. He writes:
There is a compelling business case not only for providing great service but also for keeping the clients you have. If you can cut your client attrition rate in half, it has the same effect as increasing your sales by the same percentage. And re-activating a lost client relationship is much more cost-effective than cultivating a new one.
So, what can you do to win back lost clients?
Here are four action steps you can take right now:
1. Ask for feedback. Reach out to inactive clients and talk to them. Even if you can’t win everyone back, you can learn a lot about what past clients liked and disliked as well as ways in which you can improve your service.
2. Stay in touch. Send past clients information of interest and value to them. Give them a call and ask how they’re doing. Get together for a drink or invite them to lunch.
3. Solicit input in the course of a project and address issues immediately. You can’t fix a problem if you’re not even aware of it; but, if you are, you can prevent clients from leaving you in the first place. Check out the simple tool developed by DesignFacilitator for quickly and easily gathering client feedback on a regular basis.
4. Share this advice with your staff. Reinforce the importance of client service and consistent communication. Reward the behavior that you want others to emulate.
The only acceptable reason for losing past clients is firing them. But that’s another topic entirely.
I’d take this stuff very seriously and make client knowledge/retention your highest priority in your marketing initiatives. But your first reaction probably is: “This isn’t marketing, really.” Wrong.