We live in a technology-obsessed culture, where our thoughts can turn into the written word and be broadcast all over the world in mere seconds. The mobile office is becoming an increasingly accepted reality for many. Yet, for some reason, many of us are still failing miserably at retaining our clients for the long haul.
Our addiction with instant gratification not only has us obsessed with marketing our business to only new customers, it has also allowed us to forget about those existing ones who have helped build our brands and business in the first place.
KISSMetrics found that “companies focus on acquisition more than customer retention, even though it can cost 7x more to acquire new customers.”
Instead of worrying about sending an email to the client that’s already put the money into our pockets, we spend too much time obsessing about what news story we’re going to share on Twitter!
The result? We lose those clients.
KISSMetrics also discovered that when a business relationship ends, “61% of consumers take their business to a competitor.” Furthermore, the “average value of a lost customer is $243.”
Because of these bad habits, our ability to report to our clients in a more consistent fashion has become more important than ever before. The question for many agencies, however, is how do we go about making sure that our existing clients are happy and satisfied with our service?
Knowing when and how to report to a client using all the different methods available will help us foster better relationships with our current customers, as well as keep them around. When this happens, they’ll be padding your bottom line and spreading the word about how important your services really are.
Let’s talk about the three main methods used to report and communicate with our clients and cover some best practices for getting them right.
Setting the Right Expectations
It is imperative when the new client is brought on board, you establish a precedent for how communication should take place over the course of your relationship.
Making sure to set the right expectations with your client by outlining how to effectively communicate with you and your team will prove to be one of the smartest moves you’ll ever make.
For example, the first layer of communication you’ll probably offer to a client’s new service is offering unlimited email support 24 hours a day through a support portal. Then maybe five hours of phone support included in the service designated at specific times of the day.
Then, there might be a monthly conference call included. There’s also the possibility of a once a month or bi monthly in-person meeting, depending on the location of the clients and the type of industry you are in.
Finally, there could be a monthly reporting email that touches on specific benchmarks you are responsible for. Outline this kind of reporting with your client so they know what to expect from you.
Failure to do this can sometimes leave the clients in the dark about what is going on and what kind of work you’re doing. Even worse, there’s the opposite; the client is constantly calling you on the phone asking questions and putting more stress on your team than originally expected.
Do yourself a favor and communicate with the client right out of the gate so that everybody is on the same page.
There’s no doubt that the bulk of your reporting with your client is going to be through email. However, it’s not as simple as just stating email will be the main communication tool. Both you and the client have to establish some ground rules first.
- You don’t want to have a client who is sending more emails than you and your team can handle. Make sure you express the the best way to get to the bottom of a problem or task at hand.
- Let the client know who to email specifically about certain problems that might arise, how to share files properly with the team, and response times should be outlined so that the client’s expectations are met.
- Project management tools, such as Basecamp, are needed to organize the communication via email even further – especially if many team members are involved. Ten emails at different times of the day may prove to be a great process, but those emails can also be a recipe for disaster if not managed properly. Make sure your team understands how to properly report updates and milestones to your client so that effective communication is taking place.
We’ve already discussed the importance of setting the right expectations and even further doing so with email. What’s possibly even more important is how you set those expectations with regards to phone calls. To put it simply, there are people who really do not like talking on the phone. Conversely, there are plenty of people who believe that phone calls are superior or texts or email communication.
Expectations from the get-go should include knowing how often and when they are allowed to give your team a ring on the phone. Obviously in certain situations, especially those that are considered an emergency, calls are unavoidable.
These kinds of calls need to be dealt with, but you don’t want to have the phone ringing off the hook all day long answering client questions and concerns.
In order to not find yourself in a compromising situation with a client, when creating your contract, detail phone call protocols. These could include having a specific phone number or toll-free phone number setup for technical problems to having a general office number with hours of operation. Also, consider only giving your personal cell phone number out to those clients who have earned your trust and who have not abused their phone privileges.
However, that doesn’t mean you can’t give them a quick call from time-to-time. It shows that you actually care about them and not just a signature on a paycheck.
Conference and In-Person Meetings
While email and telephone support is going to be the bulk of your interaction with a client, there is nothing more important than the periodic conference call with the team or, if possible, the in-person meeting. This is especially true in today’s mobile office, where people work from all over the world together on various projects. Nothing will make a relationship stronger than having those meetings where actual hands get shaken, smiles are shared, and deep levels of trust and respect between clients are established.
These face-to-face meetings are especially true in the performance-reporting phase, where you can actually see the reaction of your clients face, giving you a better understanding of how your company is doing and how the client feels about where they are spending their money – plus it puts a face to a name.
As mentioned before, the mobile office is changing the dynamics of how we work together and there are many successful companies that exist that have employees and clients who live far away from each other.
The companies that succeed are those that go out of their way to make sure that even if it’s once a year, their team gets together in one room and gets to know each other on a personal level – and then goes out for a drink afterwards.
And the same goes with their interactions with clients. When you have more than one of your team and client on the phone at the same time, you build a level of camaraderie that you just can’t get on a regular phone call or email conversation.
Making sure you effectively and frequently communicate with your clients – whether through text, a phone or face-to-face – is crucial in keeping the client relationship solid. It’s also an important part of the service you offer, which you might not have considered, but one you should.
by Albert Costill