No business has a perfect record when it comes to customer retention.
When things stay the same over time, we have a tendency to take our positive circumstances for granted. Sometimes, these circumstances include serving major clients that keep us cash flow positive and afloat.
If one of your major clients leaves for “greener pastures” you’re going to feel the difference immediately. It doesn’t have to spell out the end of your business, and it won’t if you know how to handle yourself appropriately during this critical time.
1. Don’t panic
It’s natural to feel shocked and overwhelmed, but you can’t let those emotions dictate your business decisions. Allowing your stress to build to a level that isn’t manageable can cause a chain reaction, and things will inevitably spiral out of control. Develop a plan to slowly work through a plan and transition. Delegate the responsibilities of that plan to the most capable colleagues or coworkers that you have at your disposal. You may want to consider taking a small step back to collect yourself before making any major decisions. You need to keep your head clear.
2. Consider why the client left
Things don’t always happen for a good reason, but they happen for a reason nonetheless. Without becoming defensive or argumentative, get a satisfactory answer from your former client. Maybe your client left due to circumstances that were out of your control. If there was an error on your end that lead the client to go elsewhere, pinpoint it. Rather than calling yourself a failure or giving up, take ownership of your mistake. Your trying time will have been for nothing if you can’t discern anything valuable from the aftermath.
3. Touch base with other clients
Figure out if the issue that drove your client away is also impacting your relationship with other clients. Call those clients for a quick check-up. Send out an appreciation email. Create a satisfaction survey. Compare notes. Make sure that an isolated incident won’t become a widespread problem. You can use customer feedback to adjust and the most valuable feedback will come from your most valuable clients.
4. Improve your service strategy
Once you have the feedback, put the puzzle together. As a result, you’re probably going to have to change the way you do some things. Change can be scary, but it will never be as scary as going belly-up and losing everything what you’ve worked hard to build. Changes may include an effort to create customized solutions for clients or tweaking your products and services to meet their evolving needs.
5. Ensure it won’t happen again
Clients will naturally come and go at some point — it is the nature of business. However, it’s your goal to create loyal clients that are in it for the log haul. Outside of making necessary client service modifications ensure your lines of communication stay strong. Also, develop a contingency plan that will help you rebound quickly the next time you lose a client or if the relationship becomes rocky. Identify and manage the risk, look closely at each client’s contribution to your bottom line and make sure new business development is an ongoing practice.
No matter how good you are, some clients simply won’t be around forever. Accept the possibility that you may lose another client – and prepare for it in the future. Don’t forget to let yourself breathe. It may seem like the end of the world right now, but it most certainly isn’t.
This article has been edited and condensed.
Marleen Anderson is part of the team behind Saxons, Australia-based company providing IT support services and IT training. She is a great technology addict with huge interest in entrepreneurship. Connect with @SaxonsGroup on Twitter.
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