The Client Conundrum: How do you keep a client you think you might lose?
Building a strong client base is essential to any business, big or small. For startups and growing smaller brands, this can be a tough challenge to tackle.
However, there’s another client-related challenge that can give even the most resilient, persevering business owner a run for his or her money -- keeping a client you worked so hard to gain.
And while you may just end up losing the client in the long run, there are a few things you can do now to try and save the working relationship while sustaining the business you’ve worked so hard to develop.
Re-evaluate your (trans)actions — Sure, running your own business means being the boss…but it also means being FAIR. As you think of ways to retain a client you may not see eye to eye with, take inventory of your interactions and transactions and review how you’ve handled each since the beginning. Have rates been acceptable based on the products and/or services you’re offering or providing? Did a misunderstanding, miscommunication, or just plain old bad day set you all on a path for disaster? Asking these questions can help you pinpoint ways and opportunities to improve relations between both parties — without having to lose a client or your business. Whatever the case, remain professional going forward, and remember that, as a business owner, the client’s needs should be a top priority (within reason, of course).
Be willing to be wrong…and to admit it — One curse that comes with running your own enterprise for many small business owners is the need to often have the right answers. Whether it’s related to invoicing, office staffing, or sensing client needs, that innate feeling drives a lot of self-starting CEOs…and it can cause a lot of friction between business owners and clients. Even if you’re working as a team of one, don’t be afraid to acknowledge your faults and do the work to remedy them — or at least how they show up in your business dealings.
Being open, positive, and transparent enough to admit that you made the wrong suggestion, made a shipping error, overcharged for a service, or delivered late on a promise shows a level of humility and maturity that clients tend to appreciate and respect. This transparency and openness also allows for room to work cooperatively to create solutions and better practices that support client retention and long-term success in your industry. There’s no need to let your ego run your business into the ground. Yes, you have to pay the cost to be the boss, but it doesn’t have to cost you your clientele.
Talk it out — Saying that communication in small business is key is certainly an understatement. But, believe it or not, it can be incredibly difficult for business owners and clients to communicate EFFECTIVELY while trying to work together. To keep a client from jumping ship, always present yourself as the type of entrepreneur that makes time and puts forth the effort to have the necessary conversations. Experts advocate for being accessible, listening to your client, and welcoming feedback regarding ways you and your business can provide optimal service to even the most difficult clients going forward. Maintaining strong communication between you and your clients also allows you to take stock in their needs, wants, and goals and tailor your methods and actions around what’s feasible, what’s acceptable, and what’s ultimately got to get done. Remember: communication isn’t always easy, but it is imperative in order to deliver expert customer service.
Keeping these tips in mind could just be the thing that helps you keep a client — or THE client — that helps you and your business level up in the small business marketplace. If strengthening your client retention skills is an immediate priority, remember that Jali Creatives is here to talk strategy and help you implement a plan that works. When it comes to client retention, what’s your biggest fear? What difficulties have you faced while trying to work with a difficult client? Feel free to leave a comment, share your experiences and share this article!