Five Actions that
Turn Customers into
Long-term Clients

Understanding the difference between a customer and a client is vital to your long-term success

What’s the difference between a customer and a client? Typically, I’ve thought of a customer as someone who seeks out your product or service. You work with them, complete the transaction, and go your separate ways. Maybe you’ll see them again – maybe not.

Very few companies survive without repeat customers. Statistically speaking, BIA Advisory Services states, 61% of businesses report that more than 50% of their revenue comes from repeat customers. We win based on our innovations, creative thinking and great teams. We retain by instilling confidence and building trust. 

To most service-oriented professionals, this may seem obvious. However, because this is a “learn as you go” industry, we need to ask ourselves: How many of us train our professionals to deliver a positive, differentiating experience to the customer?

Within the professional services industry, our tangible product is our people – who then provide the service. Our people come from diverse experiences and educational backgrounds, making their contributions unique in the workforce. But how many have received customer service training? Do they know how to make a good lasting first impression? Do they know how to build upon it to create a long-term relationship with the client? This is a vital part of creating a positive customer experience.

It’s the difference between a lasting partnership and losing the next project to the least expensive bid.

As most of us in the service industry know, tracking down and pursuing new work takes time and can be costly. The National Law Review states, “It can cost more than 5X more to acquire new customers than to keep current ones,” which in today’s market can make an impact financially. Bain & Company shared, “A 5% increase in customer retention can increase a company’s profitability by 75%,” and “The average repeat customer spends 67% more in months 31 – 36 of a relationship than in the first six months.” Let’s continue to focus on company cost. Leading on the Edge of Chaos says, “A 2% increase in customer retention has the same effect as decreasing costs by 10%,” and “On average, loyal customers are worth up to 10X their first purchase, sourced from Marketing Tech Blog. Case and point of the financial benefits to maintaining long term relationships. So, I ask: Consultants, do you have loyal clients that trust you? Rare states, “86% of consumers say loyalty is primarily driven by likability and 83% say trust.” If a client has a negative experience, Parature shares that, “It takes 12 positive customer experiences to correct it.”

Here are five things I have found that can put you on the road to transitioning your customers into long-term clients.

1. Listening and Adapting

I’ve spent over 30 years of my career in the professional services industry. During that time, I’ve been fortunate to forge long-term client relationships with global organizations. Much of the insight I’ve gained has come from listening to those clients.

Speaking as a service provider, we don’t always hit the bullseye with the first encounter. We know the key is listening to what our clients say (typically, by way of client feedback) and sometimes what they don’t say. We adapt our approach, tools and processes to accommodate their needs and exceed their expectations.

Our efforts are never complete; the most successful service providers realize this is an ever-changing space. Competition, the economic climate, industry and market disruptors are constantly evolving to better serve the client consumer.

So, what do clients expect from their Service Providers, also known as Project Managers (PM)?

Jones Lang LaSalle has collected data through client interviews, peer reviews and project audits. From these responses, we have learned what clients want from their PMs:

  • Absolute ownership of the project
  • Fearlessness in directing others
  • Better knowledge of the client than the client has of itself
  • Regular updates on everything that’s going on
  • Utilization of technology
  • Being ahead of the curve at all times
  • At close out, asking if the building met the needs of the business line, not just asking about the design
2. Skills

Skills (Behaviors)

As professionals, our training is to be proficient in our chosen occupations and areas of expertise (architect, engineer, constructor, etc.) Businesses and professions require their members to obtain continuous education to retain their proficiency and license(s). These qualifications are essential. Highly successful professionals also recognize the importance of soft skills — behaviors that instill confidence and trust, and create enduring relationships. These behaviors can be taught and learned. 

According to a KPMG study on client experience, there are Six Pillars to Client Experience Mastery:

  1. Personalization – Using individualized attention to drive emotional connection
  2. Integrity – Being trustworthy and engendering trust
  3. Expectations – Managing, meeting and exceeding expectations
  4. Resolution and Recovery – Turning a poor experience into a great one
  5. Time and Effort – Minimizing customer effort and creating frictionless process
  6. Empathy – Achieving an understanding of the client’s circumstances to develop a deep rapport 
3. Tools

In addition to carefully outlining an applicable skillset, we developed a corresponding tool kit of templates and deliverables to support our professionals, then invested in a comprehensive training program.

Client Facing Collateral: All client-facing deliverables should look professional and be intentional. Our staff are trained on the value of consistent branding: How and when to utilize branded materials that express who we are, what we do, and why we’re different.

Communication Tools: How effectively we communicate with our customers/clients goes a long way to instilling confidence and building trust. Our service is project delivery. We develop tools that communicate project delivery, and we train our teams. For example, if your service generates a design solution as the work product, provide the template that communicates “design solution” and train your staff. The goal is to equip our teams with tools and training to effectively communicate their work product. 

Management Tools and Deliverables: The specific nature of your service or business will drive what tools and deliverables belong in your toolkit. For JLL, the key is being intentional and committed to the effort and training your team on how to use the tools.

Combining Behaviors and Tools

The goal is to not only instill behaviors, but to connect the behaviors to the physical deliverables, documents and technologies clients receive from our teams.

As service providers, we should be conscious of our behaviors, the services we provide and their impacts on the client. 

4. Client Feedback and Input

Client feedback is the most valuable information we can receive as service providers. Having clients give us direct feedback and adjusting our services and deliverables to accommodate their needs and preferences builds stronger, longer-lasting relationships. As referenced above, we request client feedback throughout an assignment and use that information to coach and equip our professionals with skills that make them better service providers.

How effectively we communicate with our clients goes a long way to instilling confidence and building trust.

5. Training

Focusing on the client experience requires a conscious effort and deliberate actions by the service provider. Training is not an individual effort or decision; it requires a commitment from the entire organization. To build a brand with a consistent message about the quality of your service, evaluate how you engage with customers, and align your practices and deliverables in a manner that creates long-term client relationships.

Case Study:

Recently we were asked to manage a relatively simple program that involved the installation of equipment for a new product. The installation involved several hundred locations, multiple trades and several customer groups (franchisees). The administrative effort alone could have made the program cost-prohibitive for the franchisee. We worked with the client and ultimately developed a tool that allowed each franchisee to engage with a simple, web-based, standardized process. From the online portal, franchisees could pay for the installation service, schedule the work, and later confirm the work was completed to their satisfaction.

This solution worked because we developed a personal connection with the BRAND, understood the challenges of rolling out a new product across their franchise network, and were committed to solving the problem through our expertise, innovation, and commitment to “owning” the solution. We developed the right tools and trained our staff to execute the program.

At JLL, we have made the commitment to train our entire staff. We have developed a training program that emphasizes client experience and the importance of our brand, consistency in delivery, communication, and commitment to client satisfaction. 

Ultimately, delivering an exceptional client experience is a combination of trained behaviors and effective tools. Being deliberate and intentional in every aspect of the client interaction and training our staff to recognize what success looks like instills confidence and builds trust — the path to long-term relationships.