Client Retention- Give her the gum!

Tips for client retention

Client retention is extremely important in building sustainable business relationships, yet it is often one of the most overlooked processes in larger structured companies. Many companies today are now using social media as an interface for customer satisfaction, to engage with customers in social communities. While this is one of the many pros of social media marketing, social media marketing will be most effective when the employees of these corporations support the online persona that they create. Honesty, fairness and a willingness to go the extra mile to cement the relationship are all critical in this process.

Recently, I received a invoice from a vendor on some emergency service work that needed to be completed. When I was presented with the bill, however, it was a solid $200 over the original estimate. This incident in isolation would be one thing. It happened once before with the vendor, and I gave them the benefit of the doubt. The second time though, the vendor broke my trust and violated our relationship. I was less then thrilled. After going back and forth with the vendor, I begrudgingly paid the bill. Then came the icing on the cake. I picked up a pack of gum and placed it on the counter. As I handed over my credit card for what was now a $1,000 bill, the vendor scanned the gum and added it to my charge. What the vendor did was break the last fragment of our relationship. I think any of us would have just handed the pack over with a friendly “no charge” smile. I stood there in shock, trying to hold my composure in front of a store full of people. Interestingly, even a bystander in the store (who was probably not a social media expert) exclaimed, “Dude, just give her the gum,” to which the vendor responded, “Sorry, I can’t do that, I just work here. You must pay for the gum. What card do you want it on?”

While the vendor received my $1000 and 50 cents for the gum, they did everything possible to lose me as lifetime customer. Rather than attempting to explain their billing process and take the opportunity to make a tiny yet significant gesture, they tacked on another charge which threw me over the top.

As the principal of a social media marketing agency, I understand when the scope of work can go beyond the agreed upon limit, but I also understand the importance of being transparent with clients and engaging in an honest and open communication with them. Business today has changed- it is about building lasting, meaningful relationships with your clients. Charles H. Green, the author of Trusted Advisor, is one of the leading experts on this very issue, and he often talks about the pitfalls in communication between the client and the advisor.

Social media marketing can go a long way in creating the interface between the client and organization online- but real life “marketing” and interaction with your customers must be the backbone of this communication, or else it is meaningless. Here are some tips for client retention:

  1. Be Transparent with your client about billing
  2. If the scope of work exceeds the agreed upon price, consult your client before doing the work and billing them later
  3. Give Her The Gum! Sometimes it is worth it to “bite the bullet” and take a small hit hit in order to keep a client relationship
  4. Go the extra mile- If you have made a mistake, make an effort to engage in communication with the client and see how you can fix the problem.
  5. Create a cohesive identity between your corporate online persona and your real life persona and maintain that identity in all aspects of the relationship.
  6. It is not simply enough to say- “I just work here” To clients, every employee of an organization represents that organization- take responsibility for your actions
  7. Make your clients feel good about their investments- It is perfectly reasonable that work will sometimes exceed the agreed upon budget, but when this is the case explain to your clients why. Make them feel good about their extra investment, and show them the added value they are receiving with the increased dollar amount spent.