Stop Your Clients From Jumping Ship

by Cameron Herold, an Overdrive contributor and founder of BackPocket COO

You didn’t see it coming. You thought everything was going so well. You’d had a good relationship for a few years before the news came that day. It was like being punched in the gut. There was nothing left to do but stare out the window and slowly realize it was your fault. You didn’t listen enough. You weren’t there enough. To top it off, you’re the one who had to tell the team.

Your biggest client was leaving.

No one likes to hear what’s wrong with a client relationship. But as anyone who’s had the experience can tell you, it’s far worse to watch one turn his back and sprint toward the door without warning. What can you do to make sure it doesn’t happen again? Start by taking a minute to be honest about a few things:

  • Are your clients happy with you?
  • Do you know which ones you’re at risk of losing?
  • What more do your clients want to see from you?

I say it to business leaders all the time: be proactive. Ask your clients how you can do a better job.

One way to do this is to send out quarterly or biannual surveys to take their temperature. When they respond, listen.

Surveys are quick, painless, and it’s online so you can find out fast just how your clients feel about you. I recently came across a guide for building strong client surveys. My favorite points are:

  • Keep it short and simple: Don’t insult your clients by sending them a survey loaded down by 50 or more questions. You don’t have time to write it. They don’t have time to complete it.
  • Find your benchmark: Include a standardized question or two you can use again in future surveys. This gives you a way to measure improvements and declines over time.
  • No anonymity: If a client has a problem, you need to know which one it is. Your staff may want to remain anonymous about their negative feedback, but your clients want to be heard.
  • Create an action plan: When you get feedback, don’t sit there and wait for your client to cancel your service. Get to work. Put together a plan, include the client in the process, and show them you’re executing.
  • Repeat: Less is more, as they say, but one is too little. A single survey doesn’t help you in the long run. Keep sending them out periodically so you know when things change. Benchmarks are useless without comparisons.

Only ostriches keep their heads in the sand. If you want to keep yours out of it, surveys are a great way to go. Be proactive, and keep those clients.

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