03 Sep Client Retention Commandments #9 & 10
Commandments 9 & 10
We’re finishing our blogpost series on Tenacity’s 10 Commandments of Client Retention by combining the last two:
#9: “The end of a contract doesn’t have to mean the end of a relationship”, and
#10: “How you close a contract is just as important as how you open one.”
It’s been stunning to us over the years, to bear witness to the truly bad behavior of some contractors upon losing then exiting a contract. We’ve seen it in professional service firms and in janitorial service companies and everywhere in between. The reactions range from petulant attitudes (as if toward a lost love) to outright sabotage of the operation and the incoming replacement firm. It is reminiscent of the childish disabling of the “W” keys on word processing and communication equipment in the West Wing when President Bush 43 came in to office. That’s the sort of thing we remember, isn’t it? And, certainly, not in a good way.
No matter what the circumstances of the contract loss or termination, we can and must always behave with dignity and good humor and never fail to display class. Indeed, doing so in an overt and intentional manner is also likely to create a long lasting memory – the kind that enhances the reputation of the firm. We all know that, in the service industries, our positive reputation, along with the quality of our people are our most precious corporate assets.
We recommend that our clients set out clear expectations of their people governing how they close lost contracts. Listed below are several of the items we like to see included:
- Sincerely thank every single person in the Web of Influence® for the opportunity to have served them. Do so in person.
- Communicate clearly what they can expect from us during the transition. At the top of that list should be to expect an orderly process keeping the needs of the client foremost while we remain responsible.
- Provide for a “top to top” conversation, whether by telephone or in person, reaching the highest executive level possible in both organizations. That dialogue should reinforce the commitment to an orderly transition and contact instructions should any concern arise.
- Even though the new contract holder may be “the enemy” – perhaps even a Coke and Pepsi sort of rivalry – it is important to reach out to them and be willing to assist them and orient them to their new responsibilities. Obviously, this doesn’t include divulging proprietary information or expertise, but instead simply prioritizing and protecting the interests of our soon to be former client.
- And, definitely not least, make certain we understand the real reasons we lost the business. Be willing to take a hard look at ourselves to learn the lessons we need to learn from the experience. At Tenacity, we call this a PostMortem Audit® – an in-person, third party independent assessment of the reasons behind the loss and a full benchmark of the elements of Clients for Life® that could have been more effectively executed to have avoided it altogether.
One more memory for me is the advice of a great mentor of mine at P&G, Lou Pritchett, who assured me, “Steve, it’s never the wrong time to do the right thing.” Exiting a contract responsibly and protecting the interests of the client, is always the right thing to do.