Service-based clients can differ wildly from purchase-based customers — especially when you want to build lasting relationships with them to create repeat business. That’s why client retention can be so different from customer retention.
Here, we’ve compiled four expert tips for how to retain clients that we believe are specifically helpful to service-based businesses.
1. Highlight the Human Component
While customer-based businesses often focus on selling the value or quality of a product, client-based service businesses can promote themselves as people who provide professional services with top-quality expertise, experience, or connections. The relationships between your organization and its clients helps ensure they’re happy enough to keep using your services.
Positioning your organization as humans delivering premium services to other humans can quickly change your clients’ perceptions of who it is they’re doing business with in the first place. This can give you an advantage that keeps clients invested in your business relationship beyond numbers and deliverables.
2. Focus on Clients Individually
The second “human” in the human-to-human strategy is your client, but typical customer retention metrics may leave your clients feeling like just another number. A capable professional services automation (PSA) system can help your organization focus on the client’s needs from front end sales to back end office management. Besides using powerful tools to keep clients at the center of your business, Mark Klein of Loyalty Builders Inc. explains client loyalty with a macro vs. micro concept. Rather than focusing on customer retention — a high-level or macro idea that looks at your entire client base as a whole — loyalty is a micro metric that highlights the value of each client individually.
Klein’s company evaluates every customer with a risk score, which focuses on the customer’s likelihood of making a purchase within the next 12 months. Your metrics may be based on your client’s likelihood of using your services again within a certain period of time. These measurements allow Klein’s company to incentivize customers, rewarding customers with higher loyalty, and making offers specific to each customer’s preexisting buying behaviors. Viewing each of your customers as individual assets will allow you to market to each of them in a way that maximizes the relationship — making everyone a winner.
3. Ask Tough Questions About Client Relationships
It can be easy to evaluate client relationships in terms of the rapport between contacts, but Mike Schultz, Co-President of global sales training company RAIN Group, recommends looking at the actual business value your company provides for each client. He suggests organizations ask a series of tough questions about their clients, including whether the client views you as a partner, and what your client would say if a rival service suggested your client replace you.
If you find the answers to these questions show that you’re an essential partner, you’re in a good position to retain clients long term. If the answers aren’t what you had hoped, you now have goals for where you want the client relationship to be. That may include developing the relationship to the point that they would never consider replacing you with another service company.
4. Keep Your ‘Why’ Close
An intuitive way to further develop the connection between your organization and its clients is to keep your company’s “why” at the forefront of your business. John L. Evans, Jr., Executive Director of Knowledge Labs Professional Development, explains that an individual’s “why” may be what leads to “purpose beyond self,” but that for an organization, the “why” leads each employee to “create extraordinary moments for clients” — something clients will see when it’s apparent your employees aren’t just going through the motions.
- If your organization has a mission statement or even an unspoken but deeply held vision, make sure employees know what values should drive their service delivery for your clients.
- If your organization doesn’t have a compelling “why,” get started on one by evaluating what your organization has set out to accomplish.
- If your employees don’t know why they’re fulfilling your service orders, your clients may not know why either.
Retaining clients for a service-based business may require a different strategy than retaining a purchase-based customer, but the end goal is the same: keep your clients coming back for more.