Professional Services Guide

Client Management and Retention

How to Master Client Management & Client Retention

In professional services, client management is the relationship you have as a business with your regular customers.

There are key differences between customer management and client management. Oftentimes, a customer will make a one-off purchase from a business, whereas a client will establish an ongoing working relationship with a business — supplying a steady stream of income.

As such, keeping your clients happy is essential if you want to keep them on board and maintain a regular source of revenue.

Customer relationship management, or CRM, is the way you interact with your clients and can often set the tone for how your professional services business operates. If you want to bolster your all-important brand identity and image, then it’s in your best interest to do everything you can to keep your clients happy.

To borrow an age-old expression, we can say that the client is always right. While this obviously isn’t true, acting like it is can help you see issues through the eyes of your clients, which in theory should help you secure more rave reviews and customer satisfaction.

What are the main principles of client management?

Client management is all about strengthening the connection between the business and its most loyal customers.

Fail to communicate clearly with your clients, and you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. Communication is key, as is a level of compassion for your client’s pain points and building confidence in your working relationship.

Just as the marketing mix has the four Ps to help you commit the principles to memory, you can think of the client management principles as the four Cs.

Communication

No relationship is sustainable without communication. This is true as much for business as it is for life.

When you don’t outline your expectations from the outset and maintain an open line of communication, you are limiting the relationship’s potential. Clients may be willing to invest in your business, but they aren’t going to part with their cash unless you convince them that your services are essential for solving their pain points.

Assume that what made them choose your business in the first place is now irrelevant; how can you persuade them to stay on board and stick with your solution when there are many alternatives out there?

Compassion 

Compassion isn’t a trait you’d associate with a lot of business owners, but it’s the secret to cultivating trust.

You need to get into the mind of your clients and think like them to better understand how you can truly help them reach their goals. Without an ounce of empathy for your client’s pain points, what makes you think you’ll be able to secure their ongoing investment?

This ties in with the need for communication since you can combine market research with targeted conversation to elicit the information you need to improve your services and serve the clients in the best way possible.

Confidence

Building confidence between you and the client is a great way to establish trust in the relationship, which can only boost your standing.

You can build a level of confidence by showing the client that you can deliver what you promise. And, though you might not gain it from the outset, you can get there over time.

If you care about their goals and expectations and go out of your way to address any potential issues, you show the client that you will go above and beyond for them. The more adaptable you can show yourself to be, the harder it becomes for the client to find reasons to break off the relationship.

Clarity

In a professional business relationship, there’s no place for confusion or a lack of transparency.

When you start on a new project, for example, you should be willing to provide an estimated timeline to completion. You can even go a step further and outline any potential roadblocks you envisage along the way, in the interests of transparency.

Showing that you’re an open book gives the client a clear picture of how you do things, and should open the door to clear communication from the outset.

Why is client management important?

The main reason to invest time and energy into client management strategies is so that you can cultivate mutually beneficial relationships with your long-term customers.

Focusing on client management is a win-win scenario in which you stand to drive profits up over time and the client gets an exceptional service that is worth every dime of their hard-earned cash.

In concrete terms, here’s what you stand to gain from client management: 

Client satisfaction

Making your clients feel like they’ve made a sound investment choice is a great idea, and not because you’ll get altruistic satisfaction from it.

The more happy your clients are with your services, the more likely they are to continue to work with you and give you their full attention whenever you roll out new products and services.

Free marketing

It’s easy to pour money into elaborate marketing campaigns to drum up more business, but it’s also not a cost-effective strategy.

If you focus on the clients you already have and strategies for keeping them happy, then there’s a strong chance that they’ll spread the word and bring in new customers for you. By investing internally to manage existing relationships, you can expand your external reach. 

Brand loyalty

In addition to spreading the word, clients who’ve enjoyed a satisfactory working relationship with your business might well consider an upgrade or premium service you offer.

For example, if you have more than one IT services management package that you offer you’ll have a much easier time convincing a company that’s already on your books than a new customer.

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How to retain clients

When you’re spinning the plates of several long-term clients, there’s always the risk that you drop one by accident, shattering the relationship in the process.

To avoid this, you need an airtight strategy for client retention. A client that only sticks around for a few months might help your bottom line in the short term but will do nothing for you in the long run.

Client retention is closely tied to client management since it’s all about maintaining high levels of customer satisfaction. Some of the best strategies for retaining clients are the most simple solutions:

  • Check in with your clients regularly to see how you could improve their experience
  • Offer more than the competition, so they have no choice but to stick around
  • Provide them with a compelling vision of what the future holds for your business, and how that benefits the client 
  • Send out follow-up emails and let them know there’s someone they can contact with any problems they have

Why client retention is key to project profitability

If you can hold on to most of your clients, this will give you access to key insights regarding future profitability.

Just think about it for a second, if you have clients dropping like flies, then where will that leave you a week, a month, or a year from now? It’s impossible to predict. That’s why you should strive to keep your client retention rate high so that when it comes to forecasting figures, you’ll have reliable data to go off.

Speaking of data, did you know that customers are far more likely to make a repeat purchase when they had a positive experience with a company? This means that not only will a better retention rate allow you to make more accurate predictions but it will also lead to more sustainable profitability than relying on new customers.

Client management tools and software

CRM software can help you bring all your client management strategies together in one place, and do most of the legwork for you.

It can also save you countless hours by automating administrative processes and eliminating the risk of human error, which can prove costly.

Most CRM tools feature a project management component and a system through which you can organize and tackle your most pressing client projects. With the right software, you’ll be able to shift tasks along the pipeline to completion seamlessly. There’s a lot of emphasis placed on communication in CRM tools, so teams and individuals within the company should be able to freely discuss a project at any stage through various mediums.

Another key benefit of CRM software is that it will often provide you with a convenient client portal that lets you upload and store files for your clients to access in real-time. At a glance, your clients will be able to check in on the progress of the project, with a series of metrics from time reports to estimates. 

Given the rise of remote and hybrid work models in recent times, the demand for digital client management systems is at an all-time high. It’s no longer necessary to keep paper trails for each client and rely on manual data entry which is often ridden with costly errors that eat into company time. Digital CRM solutions provide businesses with a convenient way to strengthen existing client relations and foster new ones.

Further reading
blog post

Wrike for Professional Services: Improve Project Delivery & Customer Satisfaction

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Break the Customer Churn Cycle and Grow Your Professional Services Company

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What the Future of Client Management Could Look Like

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The Importance of Good Project Definition