9 questions to ask to help you keep clients loyal – now and in the future.
Last week we looked at the difference between client satisfaction and client loyalty, and the mistake commonly made by leaders in the belief that client satisfaction and client loyalty are positively correlated i.e. that higher the level of client satisfaction the higher the level of client loyalty.
Research has shown that the more value you deliver, the more satisfied your clients will be. The more satisfied they are, the more likely they will be to stay loyal to your firm and refer other clients to you. There is good logic here, but it makes an assumption which is often not explicit or valid in most instances.
Have you ever had a client for whom you have delivered value, for which they are highly satisfied – and who have then awarded a deal to someone else for any reason? Most people have had this experience. We have found that there is a disconnect between our delivering value and our realising client loyalty.
The fault is ours, not theirs.
If we are to keep our clients’ loyalty we need to focus on our clients’ perception of your value and our clients’ perception of your differentiation. The flawed assumption that is often made is that we look at the value delivered, and how we differentiate ourselves, from our perspective not that of the client.
If you want to keep your clients loyal, you need the answers to nine questions—some of which are focused on the clients’ perception of your value, and others on the clients’ perception of your differentiation.
Question #1: What value do clients perceive regarding our general category of company and services?
Perhaps your clients value that you are a diversified marketing company, not just a website firm. Or, that you are a specialist in XYZ, not a generalist. Perhaps they value that you are a family business versus a corporation. How clients perceive your type and category of company will resonate with many buyers.
Question #2: What is the value clients perceive regarding us as a firm?
You might find that clients value your innovation and don’t care as much that you’re periodically unresponsive. Or, that they value your client service excellence, but your technical reputation doesn’t matter quite as much. Maybe there are areas they don’t value or where you are falling down in your delivery. Clients are not interested in what you do, rather they are interested in the value that you can help them realise. Be clear on what value they see from your business, and where this value is created, and when, and for how long it lasts.
Question #3: What value do clients perceive regarding the specific services we offer?
This allows you to know what’s working for clients, which services you offer that are the strongest, and where you deliver the best value.
You might also learn that your clients don’t even know you offer particular services. Familiarity, in this case, breeds contempt – one side assuming the other knows, and the other not knowing because they’ve never been told.
Question #4: What value do clients perceive in solving the specific problems they currently have?
We all have problems, but not all problems are created equally. If you know the key priorities for a client, then you can help the client tackle them. Don’t assume that the client always knows what the problem is – by framing the problem appropriately you can help them to see problems clearly, or to see problems that they never realised they had, or that they had failed to anticipate. This can be exceptionally valuable to a client.
Question #5: What value do clients perceive they might get if they could solve certain problems or accomplish certain things that they aren’t focusing on right now or might not see as priorities?
In doing this we help clients to create a better future or one that they may not have even known was possible. By helping clients solve problems they didn’t know they could solve, and making improvements they didn’t know they could make, service providers score higher on satisfaction (that, as we mentioned, is an indicator of future loyalty).
Question #6: What different options do the clients perceive they have regarding different categories of companies that can help solve problems or achieve goals?
Sometimes it doesn’t matter as much which specific companies your client might view as what the other options are that they might be considering. As such you need to know the types and categories of companies offering services in your region. For example, as a management training company, with a core set of services in classroom training, you need to know if your buyers are considering e‐learning providers—and how to position yourself against them
Question #7: What different options do clients perceive they have regarding specific companies that can help them solve problems?
You need to know your distinctions, advantages, and disadvantages when compared with them. This is from the client’s perspective – not yours.
Question #8: What different options do clients perceive they have regarding specific services available to help them solve problems?
How do clients perceive they can solve their problems? Can you create options around what they need, rather than what you, to help them think about how they could use you – rather than should they use you!
Question #9: What different options do clients perceive they have regarding other ways to solve problems, such as internal staff?
Competitors are not always the biggest source of competition. Competition also comes from the option of the client doing it themselves, not doing it at all, changing the scope and extent of the project, or giving preference (and thus some or the entire allocated budget) to other internally competing projects and priorities.
Go through these questions with your clients. Get it from the horse’s mouth. Compare this with how you see it, where are the biggest gaps, and which areas are the priority for addressing.
Thanks to Mike Schultz of Wellesley Hills Group whose work provided the basis for much of this article.
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