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Client success - 9 min READ

How to build long-lasting client-agency relationships

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Copper Staff

Contributors from members of the Copper team

In today’s fast-paced, competitive landscape, agencies everywhere are fighting tooth and nail to generate new leads—after all, more leads mean more clients, more sales and more revenue, right?

While at first glance this seems like a successful strategy, it’s easy to forget how existing clients are far more cost-effective to upsell (and cross-sell), have greater growth potential and are more profitable over time.

For example, imagine you run a full-service marketing agency responsible for implementing a content strategy for a company. When you create ROI-generating content for the client, they’re more likely to continue doing business with you, spend on another service you offer (like SEO or design) and refer your business to their agency peers. (More on how to manage a creative agency here.)

By adopting the right retention initiatives, you can provide more value to your clients, receive actionable feedback and even get more new leads.

So, how exactly do you keep your current clients engaged and satisfied? From leveraging email personalization to automating your sales process, here are several methods your team can incorporate into their day-to-day work to improve the client-agency relationship.

See how this creative agency / production company builds relationships and collaborates using a CRM.

The importance of customer retention:

A company can boost 100% of its profits by simply retaining 5% of their customers. Not only this, loyal customers also tend to be worth 10 times more than their initial transaction, and are 65% more likely to invest in more services than first-timers.

When the President of MBNA decided to focus more on customer satisfaction over customer acquisition, the bank saw a 16x increase in profit in eight years, and their industry ranking went from 38th to fourth.

Reichheld and Sasser also found that “the longer a customer engages with a business, the more they contribute to its bottom line—all the way through the 19th year of the relationship.”

Let’s take a look at how you can retain more of your clients.

Introduce an effective customer feedback loop.

Instead of anxiously wondering if your clients are satisfied with your agency’s services and what areas need improvement, it makes more sense to ask them directly for feedback.

This not only helps you assess your agency's performance, but also demonstrates your commitment towards ensuring a positive experience for them at every step.

For example, you could use a Net Promoter Score (NPS)—a customer loyalty metric measured on a 10 point scale—to evaluate client satisfaction. Start by asking your customers a simple question, for example, “On a scale of one to ten, how likely are you to recommend Copper to someone you know?” The scores strongly correlate with customer lifetime value, therefore, the responses are filed under separate categories.

What the NPS scoring system looks like
  • Promoters (9 or 10): Extremely satisfied and don’t need additional focus.
  • Neutral (7 and 8): Not high turnover risk, but need extra attention to get back to the safe ‘Promoter’ zone.
  • Detractor (below a 7): Most likely to move on from the agency; an immediate action plan is needed to get them back on the right track.

The overall NPS is calculated by subtracting the percentage of detractors from the percentage of promoters. Companies with high NPS tend to grow twice as much as their their competitors.

Image for post Tracking NPS?

Tracking NPS?

See how to track NPS scores (and everything else about your clients) with this CRM best practices guide for agencies.

Setting up a similar feedback cycle for your agency not only helps in capturing useful data, but also sparks conversations about how you can better serve your clients.

Alternatively, some agencies use the A.C.A.F. Customer Feedback Loop system to systematically gather and implement customer feedback:

The four stages are:

  • Ask
    Create a questionnaire based on the end-goal you have in mind for the feedback survey. Do you want to identify the common pain points clients encounter while engaging with your business? Do you want to trace the common patterns between unhappy/happy clients? Do you want to evaluate the effectiveness of your customer support after a particular interaction?

  • Categorize
    Once you start receiving responses for the questionnaire, the next step is to find a scalable way to organize the feedback into relevant buckets. Depending on how many times your clients mention an issue and the potential cost of setting up a resolution process, you should be able to easily identify the problem areas that need urgent attention.

  • Act
    After categorizing the feedback you receive, it's time to share your findings with the team and prioritize improvements. Remember, regardless of whether you make this a daily, weekly or monthly affair, it's important to consider who is responding to your survey from the client's side. Too often, the person sharing the feedback is not the decision-maker, which muddies the quality of your data and how you should prioritize it.

  • Follow up
    Nearly 43% of customers don't bother responding to feedback requests because they feel like the business doesn't really care about what they've to say. On a related note, 81% of customers agreed that they'd be more open to leaving feedback if they received a response quickly. Make your clients feel appreciated for responding to your survey. One way to do this is by publishing a public report of your key findings and the steps you've taken to address them. At the very least, you can email them a personalized response, instead of a canned one, to acknowledge their feedback.

Whether you're using NPS or a basic customer satisfaction survey, a common mistake that most businesses make is not delivering on the feedback they receive.

As an agency, you'll lose credibility if you don't take active steps to address client concerns. (Not to mention you can’t expect customers to entertain feedback requests in the future if you're not making them feel heard.)

Reduce employee churn rate.

At 30%, agencies have one of the highest employee turnover rates. And it's not just agencies feeling the hit—millennials as a whole are ready to leave their jobs if they don't feel satisfied with their current situations.

Regardless of how well structured your agency is, you’ll experience staff turnover, which means your client-facing employees like account managers and even your creatives will be changing frequently.

For your existing clients, this sudden transition can signal a red flag, as they're used to interacting with specific team members. Expecting them to quickly (and frequently) move on from people responsible for their account can be challenging.

When a business development executive or an account manager leaves your company, it negatively impacts customer loyalty and increases the possibility of churn. Moreover, your remaining employees have to now spend time hiring—and training the replacement—which in turn affects the overall productivity of your team. (Here are some tools for boosting sales productivity.)

Creating a workplace that prioritizes employee satisfaction is critical to client retention—and ultimately, your agency's bottom-line.

More than three million Americans quit their job every month due to the absence of a strong learning culture, lack of recognition, poor work-life balance, insufficient growth opportunities, dysfunctional relationship with the management, and unsatisfactory remuneration. Seventy-two percent of them also consider in-office technology—that enables remote work—to be an important factor.

So, how do you ensure that your employees don’t jump ship? Here are a few pointers to get you started:

  • Establish a core value system that everyone can get behind and consistently abide by. With 50% of employees feeling like their value system doesn't necessarily align with the company's, it's important to emphasize a sense of purpose.

  • Build a culture of accountability and ownership, so that your employees feel personally invested in the success and failures of the company. This encourages your staff to develop an emotional connection with the work they do—something that's not easy to replicate or recreate anywhere else.

  • Invest in personalized training programs for your team. Almost 75% of employees leave because they're frustrated with the work environment created by their immediate supervisors and peers. By teaching your employees to be empathetic and setting clear expectations, you're preventing them from coming across as unapproachable, and hostile towards their coworkers.

  • Treat your employees like grown adults with personal autonomy. For example, MRY, a New York-based creative agency, offers unlimited vacation time to their staff because they "trust them to do the right thing" and "act in the best interests" of the company. While you don't have to necessarily do the same thing, the message is clear and simple: Avoid policing your employees for things beyond the professional sphere.

  • Provide your employees with the latest tools and technologies for simplifying their everyday work. For example, a CRM can help them shorten their sales cycle, increase their productivity by 26.4% and retain long-standing clients.

  • Support employee engagement initiatives to recognize your top-performing team members. An HBR study found that employees are most likely to move on from their current jobs at the one-year mark—with the likelihood of turnover increasing with each successive anniversary. As a result, 829 Studios, a Boston-based marketing agency wraps up early every Friday to discuss weekly success stories and acknowledge their top performers during happy hours.

Pro-tip: If an employee is moving to greener pastures, make sure you set up calls or in-person meetings with their clients to introduce them to the person who's taking over their account and brief them on any upcoming operational changes. Emphasize the importance of their business to your agency and assure them of the continuing quality of deliverables.

Embrace automation.

As an agency, you have multiple processes in place for all your clients that your team is expected to keep tabs on. When the majority of your time goes into coordinating client requirements and meeting deadlines, reducing the mundane tasks you perform manually on a daily basis can dramatically boost your productivity.

Automation helps you deliver on client expectations faster and in turn, boosts overall creative productivity in these ways:

  • Reduce response time
    Customers are more likely to engage with businesses that can quickly respond to their questions. For most companies, the average response time is 12 hours and 10 minutes, which is way too long to keep a client waiting. Using automated responders, you can acknowledge customer service requests immediately and let them know when you'd be able to get back to them.

  • Collaborate across teams
    By using automation tools like a CRM or agency management software, you can track progress on all your projects, get an overview of tasks assigned to every team member, and obtain relevant insights on the overall agency performance. A Capterra study found that companies using CRMs saw a 47% increase in customer retention and satisfaction.
On the client side, you can use a CRM to schedule calls, send payment reminders, and more.
  • Create interactive reporting templates
    If you’re still copy-pasting numbers into a spreadsheet and manually creating graphs to show how your services are contributing to a client's business, then automated reporting tools will be a total game-changer for your team.

    With automation, you can use standardized reporting templates and a selection of data visualizations to create, schedule, and share all your client reports at once.

    Automated reporting can also be used internally to track the performance of individual team members. For example, whenever a deal closes, a corresponding account report goes out to everyone in the team.

    When you spend less time collecting and compiling relevant data, you can focus more on analyzing, reporting and improving metrics that are important to the client.

There are a variety of automation tools, like Marketo, that are designed to help agencies like yours save time that you didn't know you are actually losing.

Say hello to happy, long-term client relationships.

Managing a high-performing agency can be challenging when you’re trying to keep up with the always-evolving industry trends and cut-throat competition. Ensuring that your team is held accountable against key business objectives is important, especially, when it comes to customer retention and relationship management.

Investing in a technology infrastructure that evolves with your agency is equally important when it comes to retaining clients for the long haul and improving sales productivity. Getting a real-time insight into your team’s performance is the only way you can improve your sales process, and secure long-lasting relationships.

How does your agency retain clients?

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