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As the war for talent rages onward, staffing companies have been focused on engaging and retaining internal employees as well as candidate attraction to fulfill client needs. Most staffing companies have not placed an emphasis on client retention because demand has been so strong that they feel there is an endless need.

However, we all know that downturns and economic slowdowns are inevitable, and cycles happen.  We must prepare now to retain our clients before a decline happens. How do we create a customer retention strategy that keeps them engaged and loyal? Let’s explore in a two-part series how we can build a loyal client base if market dynamics shift and we enter a recession.

Analyze client turnover metrics. You can’t correct a problem if you don’t know you have one. You should be tracking and analyzing the number of customers who leave and the reasons why they no longer buy your services. Evaluate the data and feedback to better understand the reasons for the churn rate and to increase retention. It is critical to spot the trends and weaknesses in your organization.

Conversely, sometimes we proactively part ways with a client because they don’t match our model, rates, capabilities, process, etc. We need to track these scenarios as well. A client that wasn’t a fit for us years ago may now be a viable source of business. Company dynamics and employees change, so don’t assume — stay connected and follow up!

Collect customer feedback. It’s hard to improve your business if you don’t know how your customers perceive it. To enhance retention, you need a process for obtaining client feedback and sharing that information with the rest of your company. A customer feedback loop provides a system for collecting, analyzing and sharing reviews or surveys. There are a few ways to collect this feedback, and the most common way is by using one of many survey tools that are available. You should evaluate your results looking for trends in customer behavior and other opportunities to enhance your service. Make sure you understand what is important to the client and their business. Further, share this information in your organization and create an action plan to correct shortcomings and capitalize on new business offerings.

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Communicate directly with clients. Even if your customers aren’t contacting you, your team should be proactive in communicating with them. Speak to them in person and via video/phone, and engage at in-person events — build the trust and rapport. Nothing replaces one-on-one communication, so don’t solely rely on email, texting, LinkedIn or the like. Utilize a communication calendar to create opportunities to check in, cross-sell and follow up. All staffing companies have a tool or system for this, so it is easy to set up the actions. Send press releases, articles and information about laws and regulation that are of interest to the client and their specific industry. Additionally, read their website/Google to engage in meaningful conversation about their business. A company newsletter is also a cost-effective way of staying in contact, and it doesn’t have to be long and tedious. Out of sight is out of mind, and staffing is a business where you need to be visible and present.

Become a specialist. The days of being a staffing generalist are gone. Become a student of their industry and a specialist by understanding the challenges, regulations and nuances to the industry. For example, businesses like healthcare, manufacturing and federal/defense have unique needs and specific business processes. Assume they are a DOD integrator. There is nothing more powerful than being able to convey to them how your company can find and hold clearances or that you have a process to handle government FAR requirements. Also, give them examples and case studies of where you have done this before. A track record of delivering in their industry makes you an indispensable business partner.

Minimize the churn. While there’s excitement that comes with obtaining new customers, keeping existing customers will result in a greater ROI. Client retention costs at least five times less than new client acquisition. Churn is not only costly; it can stretch internal resources thin. While we don’t know what economic headwinds with blow, strive to become a trusted advisor and not a generic staffing supplier to retain clients for the long term.

In part two, I will discuss more strategies for client retention.