Saturday, October 18, 2008

Client Retention: Fix It If It's Broke

It happens. Even to the best.

The job is completed; all deliverables have been delivered (and perhaps a few thrown in to build goodwill), and the client is still not happy.

The small business owner relies on repeat business for long-term success and a disgruntled client is NOT going to build your client base. In fact, a dissatisfied client won’t recommend your services (the best sell in the world – a personal recommendation) but that unhappy client is going to bad mouth your company at every conference, seminar, luncheon and high-level business meeting.

You know that’s gonna hurt. So, can this relationship be saved? Indeed, it can. And as the company owner whose a$$ is on the line, you better get started ASAP.

1. Before the project, ensure that all parties (including sub-contractors) are on the same page. Client and professional team both know what to expect at the end of the business agreement.

Look, if one party or the other is searching through the files for the contract, you’ve already got problems. Somebody isn’t happy. At least a statement of work (SOW) produces realistic expectations.

2. Be proactive. If you discover the typos before the client, contact the site owner immediately. “We caught it. We’ll fix it. No worries.”

3. When the mistake is discovered, take over. If you’ve been using a client rep to manage things, getting the boss on the phone goes a long way to improving a bad situation.

4. Isolate the clients dissatisfaction. What, exactly, has his knickers in a twist? Get the client to provide examples that aren’t “right.” Then, find out why they aren’t right.

5. Ask the client how she would like you to resolve the problem. The objective here is to engage the client in the solution. Rather than just saying we’ll fix it, make sure the client has a stake in whatever changes are required.

6. Determine how much you can “eat.” If you’ve got a couple of hundred very expensive man hours tied up in a site design, development, launch and SEO, you can’t walk away with nothing. In this case, figure your bottom line, break even and court the client to return with his next project. You’ve just created a great salesperson, as well.

I’ve given content away. It didn’t take thousands of man hours, it wasn’t what the client was looking for (too conversational, too academic, not academic enough, etc.) so, instead of having someone giving me the digital stink-eye, “Take it. if you can use it, it’s yours. If not, toss it.” It hurts, but more often than not, those individuals come back with another project.

It’s happened more than once. And that’s not counting unsolicited referrals.

So, fix it if it’s broke. It’s far-horizon thinking and a proven pathway to business growth.

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