If you know anything about RELATIONSHIP, then you understand how painful this really is. You work hard at building a relationship. You devote unrecoverable time and incredible resources on making sure everything runs well, and at the levels your client would expect. You go the extra mile, make the extra sacrifice, bring in the extra specialists, and engage the extra manager, to make sure that the client knows they are appreciated. Then, suddenly…….they walk away.
There are no exact answers to why a client leaves, however, a few things might be present;
- Your Client viewed you as a Commodity; your RELATIONSHIP was based on price, and doing WHAT THEY SAY, not what is good for both parties.
- You may have lost sight of what was really important to the RELATIONSHIP.
- YOUR company is really not focused on RELATIONSHIP.
So your work just became that much harder, because in order to recover the economic benefit of a long term fully engaged client, it might take 5 more new clients to replace the existing one. Moreover, cultivating new clients might come at a 10:1 ratio (i.e. you meet 10 times with new prospects for every 1 new client you bring into your business…if you are lucky).
Did you ever stop and think about what it would take to retain that lost client (or one you might be in the process of losing right now), as opposed to actually losing them unexpectedly? A few thoughts on the 3 answers above.
#1 (Commodity Relationship): Was this ever a good relationship, or for that matter, even a relationship at all? If your efforts are continually fighting fires, chasing rude phone calls, being put on edge and/or being required to beg for the business (even when they are your client), maybe this is not a good client at all. Action: Take a look now, determine whether you are valued or not, and make a course of action to engage discussion on value of RELATIONSHIP, or plan for exit, and rebuild your client base now, because YOU DO NOT NEED THIS KIND OF CLIENT. You are worth more than this!
#2 (What is really important?): Do you ever have a REAL one-on-one discussion with your client, outside of completing transactions, about value, needs, concerns, goals, fulfillment, and “How are WE doing?”? Periodic reviews are critical to every RELATIONSHIP. Asking true questions about you and them, and knowing your client and their issues, is pivotal to trust, growth, and knowledge. When you know your client, you should rarely be broadsided by the unexpected, because you are engaged! Action: Start engaging your client with a one-on-one meeting from time to time, with a real agenda of plugging in their needs with your needs. Knowledge and action are a key to great RELATIONSHIPS!
#3 (Your Company (our demands!!)): We talk a lot about RELATIONSHIP with clients and meeting their needs, but are you truly working for the benefit of the client AND your business, or is this a one-way street for YOUR business? Consider whether you truly know what RELATIONSHIP means, or whether shareholder value and policies are really driving the train. All too often, we speak of how we appreciate our clients, but we find that the real baseline of operations is based on building company profits, fulfilling management goals (of which we might not even be aware), and company bylines that are unobtainable because of these 2 issues. We are met with a sudden crossroad: Our client must meet OUR demands, or they may really not be a client that we want! Action: Get in touch with YOU, and your company; if company goals are really the only initiative, be aware, and act accordingly. Adapting to a client base that fits this model is appropriate, and your approach should be internalized to do this. Or, you might find that either you, or your company (or both) should change directions as you proceed with your business efforts.
David Alexander is President of Mile Marker Business and Consulting Services, LLC, a business consulting firm focused on improving business operations and efforts, building real planning, and working to fulfill the financial needs of small and middle market businesses.