Picture this: You’re driving around one day. The sun is shining, and you’re enjoying life. Then, as you pass by a client’s home, you notice a “for sale” sign — from a competing real estate agent.
It can feel like a punch in your gut. You have to glance back in your rearview mirror again to make sure you really saw it. The listing agent’s photo gazes back at you. His smile seems taunting, given the circumstances.
Disappointment gives way to confusion. You saw no signs of discontent when you worked with this client a few years ago. You provided good service, so why isn’t that your sign on the lawn?
Good service is not enough to build client loyalty. Clients expect good service. Even if your clients are happy at the time of the transaction, that won’t guarantee repeat business in the future.
If you want clients to return — or, better yet become advocates for your business — you need to take a more proactive approach.
Fortunately, it’s not difficult or expensive to do. Just follow these seven steps.
1. Perform an audit of the client experience.
Don’t just assume that you are giving your clients everything they want and need. Go back and find out for sure. Ask coworkers, contacts and past clients for objective opinions about the entire experience, from initial contact through to after the transaction.
Be sure to ask for specific feedback about communication, reliability, helpfulness and the like. And encourage them to be brutally honest. Explain how both positive and negative feedback is going to help you identify what you need to focus on.
2. Gather client feedback and suggestions.
Once you’ve determined what areas you need to focus on, it’s time to figure out the best ways to improve and enhance your efforts. One of the best ways to do this is to develop a client survey that asks specific, easy-to-answer questions.
While the first step focuses largely on your service, this step should focus more on your clients. When you know what frustrates, motivates and delights them, you can develop strategies to exceed their expectations.
3. Refine your service model.
It’s time to put those insights to work. Give your clients more of what they want and eliminate the frustrations as much as possible. Just make sure you have the ability to deliver what you say you will. The quickest way to lose a client is to over-promise or under-deliver.
4. Create a communications strategy.
Never give your clients the opportunity to forget about you — or, worse, feel neglected. By consistently staying in touch with your clients, you stay on their minds and put yourself in the presence of opportunity.
Try to vary your methods to maximize impact. For example, some clients might prefer verbal communications most of the time, while others might prefer written correspondence. Work both into your plan.
5. Develop a relationship beyond the transaction.
If you’re all business all the time, your clients will only want to hear from you when they need your services. To stay in touch, try to build rapport on a personal level. Get to know what’s important to them.
Remember birthdays and anniversaries. Congratulate them on life events. Talk about common interests. Use whatever you can to start up conversations.
6. Go the extra mile.
It’s nice to tell your clients that you appreciate their business. It’s even better to show them. Think of ways to demonstrate how much you value the relationship you have developed, whether it’s giving a token of your appreciation, sharing helpful recommendations or doing something unexpected.
7. Keep yourself in check.
Often, an agent comes out motivated only to slip back into old habits after a few months. Consistency is essential to your success. Scheduling a semi-annual review can help you make sure you stay on track. Don’t give another agent the opportunity to persuade your clients to switch.
The biggest difference between agents who have advocates and those who have past clients is most often commitment. If you make a concerted effort to consistently demonstrate the value those relationships represent, there’s no reason you can’t build a loyal base of advocates.
Sean Kirby is copywriter for ReminderMedia, a relationship marketing company that helps businesses solidify their key relationships and generate repeat and referral clients. Follow them on Twitter and connect on Facebook.