Entrepreneurship is not all roses and unicorns. Sometimes, it’s tough. In fact, there are times when it has to be tough in order for your employees, your business, and even you, young padawan, to grow.

Sometimes, you lose clients. When it happens – and it does happen – business owners may wonder if sub-par performance, a lack of leadership, or the worst clients ever are to blame. I’m not talking about letting clients go because they are no longer a fit or due to budget cuts; I’m talking about when they tell you not to let the door hit you on the way out. Whatever the cause, there are steps you can take now to better manage unhappy clients before they leave.

At Red Branch Media, we know that client and customer retention is critical. According to a roundup of stats published by Salesforce:

- It’s 6-7 times more costly to attract a new customer than it is to retain an existing customer.

- 89 percent of consumers have stopped doing business with a company after experiencing poor customer service.

- A 10 percent increase in customer retention levels results in a 30 percent increase in the value of your company.

That last one is reason enough for entrepreneurs to start “loving the ones they’re with”! Stop the revolving door of clients by adopting these three best practices – all of which I learned from the school of hard knocks (I am their most distinguished graduate, aside from Marlon Brandon [R.I.P.]):

1. Understand and Measure the Probable Cause

Be proactive in obtaining regular feedback from clients and customers to better understand their issues. Don’t wait for them to come complaining! Set up a system where continuous feedback is received from key stakeholders in the company.

Be in communication with key decision makers on the client’s side, or you run the risk of missing crucial direction from the people who sign the checks. This often happens when working with larger corporations, and a decision may be made to end services with your business before you even know why!

Warning Sign: If it’s been a while since you’ve talked to the person who brought your company on board, then you might need to schedule a call or meeting ASAP! Try to connect with your clients consistently through monthly intake calls, a weekly personal emails, or a daily texts – whatever works best for you and your clients.

SeashellShort-Term Fix: Schedule a call within the next week (do not send an email) to let the client know you are aware of their issues and are taking action immediately to find a solution.

Long-Term Fix: Send out monthly client feedback surveys via Google Forms, SurveyMonkey, or QZZR to learn how your organization can better serve its customers. Assure your clients all feedback is confidential. That will allow them to be more honest with you – even if they need to call out a not-so-helpful employee.

2. Make Client Retention Your No. 1 Priority

I’m really talking about client satisfaction. Clients need to know they are important to your business, and they need to know you care about their business just as much as you care about your own. Following up on the feedback surveys is the best way to reassure them of this.

Also useful? Adding thank you notes to your invoices, the occasional freebie (just for clients), and gifts that are useful and show you care about the customer’s business.

Warning Sign: If someone on your client roster says, “I know you’re terribly busy, but … ” or “I know we don’t pay as much as your other client …” that is a major red flag. It means they feel insecure about their access to you!

Short-Term Fix: Follow up on completed customer surveys with a handwritten thank-you note explaining the new feedback process and why it’s important. Be transparent: Let your customers know that client satisfaction is a top priority and that their business is genuinely appreciated.

Long-Term Fix: Keep the client appreciation going all year by sending holiday thank-you cards or gifts, giving new clients welcome gifts or company-branded swag, offering discounts to loyal customers, or even shouting out your best clients on social media. A little appreciation goes a long way.

3. Never Stop Solving Issues

Client satisfactions surveys and discussions with customers will shed light on areas in need of improvement. Keep clients in the loop by acknowledging their feedback has been received and action is being taken to remedy any problematic situations.

Warning Sign: Focus on the point person inside your organization who deals with the account. If they never have any constructive feedback, they might be skating. Buckle down on accounts that are “fine.” There is always something to improve. If an account is on autopilot, why would someone pay you to be the pilot?

Short-Term Fix: Create a mini-brief that outlines key feedback points and the steps your company is taking to fix them. Give the client actionable bullet points with a reasonable timeline attached.

BirdsLong-Term Fix: Always provide status updates on important client issues. Schedule regular calls or face-to-face meetings – do whatever it takes to show clients you are available and ready to tackle issues head on as if they were your own. If you provide regular reporting (many service-based businesses do), include what you’re improving or planning to improve in every status report. Also show where you’ve improved in the past (as directly relates to each client’s business).

While clients will always come and go, it’s crucial that the flow of clients is the result of business changes – not communication problems, dissatisfied customers, or unhelpful employees. Enact short-term client retention strategies immediately and build processes surrounding long-term methods to improve client satisfaction before it’s too late.

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