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How Do You Make It Hard For Clients To Leave?

When speaking with professional services firms about one of their clients, I’ll often hear, “We’ve got a good relationship with that company.”

That may very well be true. However, how deep of a relationship is it? Can you quantify that connection better through an actual client retention strategy?

If you’re not absolutely certain on that, you might do well to acquaint yourself with The Three Crosses: Cross-Selling, Cross-Serving and Cross-Solving.

When you’ve reached a state of providing multiple services, serving multiple people and solving problems in a multitude of ways, guess what? You’re making it much more difficult for that client to leave you or even probably look around at their options.

Let’s take cross-selling first, the term you’ve likely heard most commonly of the three. It refers to leveraging the relationship in which the client uses other services within the firm.

Financial institutions have done studies in which they realized the more services the client would buy, the longer that client would be with the firm. One service provided might mean that the client would stay for a year or two on average. Two services provided could mean another year. Three or more services? Now we’re talking about many more potential years as a client. The fact is, it’s hard to leave when three or more services are being provided, assuming the level of satisfaction on each of those services is strong.

What’s cross-serving mean?

It’s not just about good service from one rep in your organization to one client contact. To me, that’s an expectation. It’s not a reason for them to retain you or at least it’s a potentially vulnerable position to be in. Instead, consider this – how many different people within the company do you have a solid connection with? How many different departments are you working with?

The key here is to expand the relationship beyond the pure decision maker to identify any and all relevant influencers who are directly adjacent to your day-to-day contact.

What do these influencers look like?

They could be those active in the business today, such as:

  • Managers one step above your contact

  • Employees one step below your contact

  • Managers or employees parallel to your contact in other departments

They could be outside of the business too, including the contact’s:

  • Attorney

  • Banker

  • CPA

  • Spouse

  • Children who are getting older, playing a more prominent role

Finally, cross-solving is a state where the relationship is hitting on all cylinders but to get here, you’re going to need a selflessness within you that says, “I’m going to find solutions for my client – even if those solutions don’t directly relate to the service I’m providing or providing me an economic benefit.”

Here’s how to pave the road for cross-solving:

Ask the clients about the services they need help with that you aren’t providing. You may be nervous about bringing up this idea, but you’ll probably be surprised by how forthcoming your client may be. Drive the client to one of two avenues that work: “If we don’t provide a particular service you need, we’ll consider adding one that does – or we’ll refer you onto someone who can provide that service.”

Resist the urge to solve all of their problems. You can’t and shouldn’t. However, when you can’t, you can become a Referral Machine who connects the client’s problem to another colleague you know and trust. You keep doing this for several client contacts with several challenges. No longer are you supplying one service for one contact.

Think about the position being a Referral Machine puts you in: You’re solving problems for your client in many different ways. Ironically, by bringing in others to address a multitude of issues, you’re strengthening your own relationship with the client.

In this new light, you’re a trusted resource that they’re going to have a hard time leaving behind. Now there’s real risk in switching service providers away from you because of all the services, connections and solutions you’ve brought to the table through Cross-Selling, Cross-Serving and Cross-Solving.

Here’s one more advantage of employing such a client retention strategy: Many professional service firms don’t do this at all.

It’s true. If a firm only took once or twice a year to explore its opportunities with each client for cross-selling, cross-serving and cross-solving, that might be sufficient. But the majority of firms only want to talk to clients when they’re delivering the final product. They’re often too afraid to ask questions that may not have anything to do with their business but are still relevant challenges to the client. And that’s why they don’t move the needle of the relationship beyond just what they’re asked to do.

Make Your Move Now. Or Risk Waiting Until Your Client Does.

Firms that assume the client relationship is perfect could be setting themselves up for an unwelcome surprise when the client switches service providers.

Firms that don’t want to take that chance, however, will be very interested in our Change Your Paradigm client loyalty assessment from Value Drivers. In just 3 months, we’ll help provide you with a terrific sense of where your vulnerabilities in client loyalty lie and what kind of additional services your clients may be calling for. As gaps in perceptions are revealed, you’ll also receive the constructive feedback you need to make crucial adjustments to your processes.

Better retention strategies start when you Change Your Paradigm. So if you’re ready to feel more confident about your client relationships, contact Value Drivers today at 312.827.2643.

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