Tim Gouw photo
Remind me again. What do you do for me?
Oh, oh. Those are alarm words you definitely don’t want to hear from a client. (Or, from your spouse. Don’t laugh. They’re both based on relationships.) Matter of fact, you don’t even want them to think of those nine words. Because it means, as Legendary Blues Man, B.B. King, would say, “The Thrill is Gone.”
But, unless you regularly let your client know what you have done and are continuing to do for and with them to help improve their business, then in the not-too-distant-future, three other words will force their way into your vocabulary…churn and lost revenue.
Clients are hard to get. Even harder to keep.
There’s an old saying in advertising which basically states, “The time to start worrying about losing an account, is the day you get it.” (Don Draper’s version in Mad Men was, “The day you sign a client is the day you start losing him.” I heard my version when I worked in the old ad game, long before Mad Men existed.)
Anyway, your clients may not their express concern in the same “Remind me again” manner. In fact, they may not express it at all. But, make no mistake―maybe not now, maybe not in the next few months, or the next year―there’s a good chance something will cause your client to rethink their commitment, even if they outwardly or inwardly expressed their loyalty to you.
And that something is called competition.
So, what you do, how you do it, when you do it, and how well you communicate it all, can mean the difference between keeping a client..and losing one.
There are tons of factors which impact a client’s decision to leave or stay. And that’s what customer loyalty and customer experience programs, platforms and CRM systems are all about. (Yours are all kept current, right?)
There is one important thing you can do to keep your clients happy.
Tell them you love them regularly.
Good project managers use Six Sigma techniques to communicate the “love” in status reports of a project or task on a regular basis. Financial planners send their clients monthly updates about their portfolios. Banks send account statements. And if you’re in any type of customer-facing position and not already doing it, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t take a page from their books and do the same thing. It’s about accountability. Think of it as an investor update. Which, in reality, is exactly what it is.
Here’s a good starting point.
The day someone agrees to work with you, is the day “buyer’s remorse” has a tendency to set in. There are things you can do to combat it during that initial period immediately following the day the business is awarded. I read a pretty good article about buyer’s remorse and what steps to take a while back in HubSpot, starting with point #4. (Well, OK…I wrote it. But, it does have some good reference links.)
Once you address the whole buyer’s remorse situation, “regularly” demonstrating your appreciation to your client will all depend on your business, the scope of work and timing. Personally, I prefer monthly reports because it gives me another opportunity to communicate with a client, confirm expectations, and deepen relationships.
Why do I think those types of summary reports are a good idea?
Couple of reasons. I’ve done it and it works. And, not too long ago, my company conducted a preliminary benchmark study on four, inter-related revenue-generating areas most businesses and non-profits have in common. Among other things, it measured how well companies communicated with their clients based upon specific action items within each category. One of those action items was “regular status reports.” More specifically…
Regular status reports submitted by senior management to clients with outcomes based on agreed-upon objectives.
The key phrases in the above quote being, “submitted by senior management” and “outcomes based on agreed-upon objectives.”
Having the summary report submitted by someone in senior management (and unless they’re dummies), means they should have read the summary before it’s sent. And, it also means, having read the summary, they’ll be kept up-to-date on the client status.
With regard to the “outcomes based on agreed-upon objectives” phrase…
Based on the benchmark summary, it turns out the participating companies in the study admitted doing a mediocre job establishing client agreed-upon objectives, setting expectations and defining value benefits to be provided.
All of which means missed opportunities for demonstrating client ROI and sustaining the relationship.
But Bob, you say, we usually send a wrap-up report at the end of our projects. Well, that’s a good thing. To me, it all depends on how long the project is. But, it doesn’t matter if your relationship is project or retainer based, when you provide your clients with regular updates, it’s a good way to keep them informed, and to also identify any potential issues before they become major disasters. And importantly, it’s another opportunity to reinforce their confidence for selecting your company and to make them look good for their management.
Yes, I know you’re busy and these types of reports might take a little time. (In reality, not really that much time.) But, to me, they are strategic business development communications tools too valuable to be ignored.
And one thing is certain. I can guarantee you it’ll take far less time, and cost far less money to generate the report, then to get a new client to replace the one you may be at risk of losing.
So, what kind of status reports am I talking about? The kind that:
1. You initiate. It’s better if you’re the one doing the telling; then if your clients are the ones doing the asking.
2. Keeps it brief. We all get tons of emails daily. A one-page report, maybe just a tad longer, will be fine. As long as it contains condensed, client-related value. (They don’t really care about your newsletter or press releases. It has to be about them.)
3. Sets expectations early. The day you are awarded the business, explain to the client what you’ll be sending them. Information it will contain. Why you’ll be sending it. When you’ll be sending it and what value it’ll deliver for them. Then make team introductions (see points #5 and #7 on the HubSpot Buyer’s Remorse link mentioned earlier).
4. Includes deliverable updates. Make sure your summary reports are reflective of previously agree upon and anticipated outcomes, Key Performance Indicators, timelines and specific, quantified value benefits your company provided. For the specific period and the upcoming period.
5. Flags any minor issues. Before they become major problems and make sure you’ve provided solutions.
6. Includes budget updates. Don’t be afraid to talk about how things are going compared to the budget. Whether you’re over, under or right on budget. Now’s the time to address it or it could take on catastrophic proportions when the project is completed. (See #4 above.)
7. Demonstrates management involvement. If you’re the supervisor or manager…you send the report. And send it to your counterpart. It’ll let them know that you’re involved and know what’s going on. And make sure all your team is copied.
8. Gives you an opportunity to follow-up. Which is key. When you send the summary report, tell your counterpart you’ll be calling to follow-up…and then do it. Will they answer your call? Probably not, but you’ll be doing what you said you’d do and further demonstrating your commitment to them and their business. Besides, would you rather be remembered as the person who followed-up or the one who didn’t?
9. Can serve as the basis for Case Studies. You can easily convert a status report into a case study with quantifiable results to be used for prospecting efforts. You’ll just need to “genericize” it.
10. Provides other client benefits. Regular status reports help to build an excellent foundation for referrals and regular client reviews. (Which was another weak area in the study mentioned previously.) You can click here to learn more about Client Review Meetings.
Do whatever you can to keep the excitement from wearing off in a new, and especially in an older client relationship. To make sure they don’t lose the thrill of working with you and your company. I mentioned B.B. King earlier, who expresses it best in, “The Thrill is Gone” video below.
Basically, it all comes down to treating someone like you’d like to be treated.