Client retention is arguably one of the most important aspects of your business. It takes a lot of hard work to draw clients into your business, whether that be through online or offline efforts, so it's important that you work to keep these clients more than satisfied once they actually decide to work with your company.

Unfortunately, many small business owners focus too much on the before and not enough on the after when it comes to their clients. If you want those all-important referrals in the future and if you want to keep your business solid, it's your current clients that are going to be your biggest asset. In other words, it's those that continually come back for services that help your business remain stable and give you the leeway to experiment and grow, so you absolutely have to focus on retention.

Top Tricks to Improve Client Retention

No matter how much hard work you put into retaining clientele, it's important to understand you're not going to get them all coming back for more. However, knowing how to put in the effort can help you keep a few along the way, and eventually you'll start to see these loyal customers building up and becoming part of your long-term success strategy.

  1. Get to know your customers.

In the end, customers are going to like businesses that know them better as opposed to those that treat them like just another client. People like to be known and understood.

According to HelpScout, many behavioral psychology studies have shown that everybody views their service experience as more positive when they don't feel rushed or ignored. Do this by telling your service team to spend a little bit more time with the customers or clients. This doesn't mean making small talk every single day, but really taking time to understand the traits of a customer and creating that sense of a real relationship.

  1. Have a feedback system.

There is no better way to improve your retention techniques than hearing from the customers themselves. A feedback system, such as a survey or talking with your loyal customers, will help you hear from them directly regarding how they felt about your business. This can offer a lot of great insights as to what would keep your clients coming back for more, which you can then put into effect and keep revising. Learn about a few of the "don'ts" of a feedback system here.

  1. Set expectations for the client early.

There are actually a few different reasons that setting expectations early on in your relationship with a client is crucial to retention:

  • If you can follow-through on what you promised weeks or even months earlier, that is going to be impressive to a client.
  • You eliminate the element of uncertainty. The client will know what to expect and when, which can give him/her piece of mind (which is always better to offer sooner rather than later).
  • Having a clear vision early on can help your company develop KPIs around specific expectations, which will help you succeed in general.

If you can help it, try to overshoot the time needed to complete something. It's better to always ere on the side of caution in case something does go wrong, but if you can deliver early (and you should), that will go a long way. The only way to get this benefit is to set those expectations right away. Check out this article that mentions this as a pitfall that can sometimes even kill your company.

  1. Be nice unexpectedly.

Giving a free gift or sending a quick follow-up message is great, but this actually works better if you can use the element of surprise to your advantage. People naturally remember when something surprised them in a good way because it came out of nowhere, so you want to leave that lasting impression.

Remember, though, that you don't want to have an ulterior motive--such as trying to sell something, bringing the customer back, etc.--you just want to use the element of surprise for just that, the benefits of a surprise. It makes people happy and it sticks out in their mind and something that was out of the ordinary.

  1. Anticipatory service > traditional customer service.

If you think it's hard to believe that anything would be more important than customer service, you're right. Anticipatory service is simply just a style of customer service. With an anticipatory strategy, your company and/or sales team will try to anticipate any problems that might occur and then stop them before they happen. This can even be something as simple as calling and asking if everything is OK before the client calls you to say something is not, or something more complicated like calling to let someone know that the product they purchased is going to be announced as discontinued in the next few weeks.

The main takeaway to really stress here is being proactive with your clients. Establishing this dialog can help show awareness from your company and even help to show that you respect your clients' time.