It is well known that it can cost up to five times more to gain a new customer than it does to retain an existing one. These days, smart, forward-thinking enterprises are paying far more attention to customer retention than ever before. They’re aware that by increasing customer retention rates by just 5% they can drive profit growth of 25% to 95%, according to Bain & Company research.
But not all customers or clients are the same or offer the same potential retention value. Many businesses, primarily those operating in B2B arenas, will have a number of ‘key accounts’. These are major customers with whom suppliers have developed strong working partnerships that go beyond the standard vendor to customer relationship. These key accounts will most likely have a purchase and interaction history through which a high level of trust has become established. Retaining these key accounts, by supporting their business development goals and ensuring continuous client satisfaction, is good for them and great for the service or product supplier.
Key Account Management
Key account management involves:
- Identifying and recognising your key accounts.
- Knowing the decision-makers and their areas of influence.
- Establishing and developing fruitful working relationships.
- Working with them to achieve the success they are seeking.
- Remaining aware of their customer satisfaction status.
An important aspect of key account management is recognising that these accounts need to be considered as strategic partners. Success for them means success for you. It is therefore important to gain an in depth understanding of what success means to them and how your products and services contribute to the attainment of their goals and objectives. Your organisation may then need to go way beyond simply providing support to help ensure that your key clients achieve the success they desire.
Continuously gathering feedback from major clients regarding their level of customer satisfaction is another important aspect of key account management. Mechanisms need to be in place that ensure your organisation knows when customer satisfaction is deteriorating so that steps can be taken to remedy any issues before they become problems. You need to be aware of even the smallest of issues as these can accumulate to become a bigger problem that threatens key account retention.
Key Account Retention Strategies
Here are some recommendations that will help you hang on to those valuable major clients.
Establish Constant Communications. Open and honest two way communication between you and your major clients is great for relationship development and helps ensure that you remain aware of what’s happening for your client while they are aware of developments in your organisation. The multitude of communications channels available today (email, chat, social media etc.) means that an effective system and routine can be established which works for everyone.
Derive Continuous Feedback. An important part of your key client communications strategy should be deriving continuous feedback from both those you are regularly in contact with on a day-to-day basis along with people in decision-making roles. Client feedback needs to be gathered throughout the customer journey, at every touch-point. The importance of ongoing customer satisfaction monitoring is discussed further below.
Strive for Customer Success. You need to be fully aware of what success looks like for your key clients and the role that your supplied services and products play in achieving their success. Your key account relationships require working closely with clients, in partnership, to achieve the success they desire.
Exceed Their Expectations. Going above and beyond what’s expected is a surefire way to make a great impression. Gaining a deep appreciation of key account expectations is essential. Armed with this knowledge you should be able to identify exactly what will delight each of your important clients.
Monitor Key Account Customer Satisfaction
Deriving continuous feedback and remaining constantly aware of key account customer satisfaction is vital for customer retention. As noted, it’s important to gather feedback from both the people you are dealing with on a day-to-day basis along with those in decision-making roles who are responsible for ongoing contracts and purchases.
Traditional customer satisfaction surveys have often been overly long, asking many questions and requiring significant time to complete. Inevitably these result in low survey response rates. Surveys may have been carried out on regular annual dates or maybe several times a year, but this leaves plenty of time in between for negative issues to arise which put the account relationship at risk. Ideally, customer satisfaction for key accounts should be monitored and tracked in real-time with frequent updates.
It’s essential to monitor customer satisfaction in relation to both transactional events, which are revenue related, alongside conversational, day-to-day interactions. By overly focusing upon feedback derived regarding only transactional events, valuable insight from conversational, day-to-day, routine interactions might be lost. This is where valuable insight into smaller issues can often be derived, before these accumulate into bigger problems.
The important requirements of the key account customer feedback system are summarised as follows:
- It must be quick and easy for clients to provide feedback.
- It must not be intrusive.
- It must gather feedback throughout the client’s journey, including both transactional events along with conversational exchanges.
- It must be inclusive, inviting feedback from all key account stakeholders.
- Feedback should be gathered frequently and continuously.
- The feedback mechanism must be easily deployable.
- Key clients must be happy to use the system.
The Customer Thermometer single-question CSAT survey tool meets all of these requirements. Key account personnel can be prompted via email to answer just one simple question, by clicking the appropriate icon and adding their feedback comments. Their responses are immediately gathered and presented for analysis from the Customer Thermometer dashboard.
Real-time customer satisfaction monitoring means that the risk of losing a key account, due to the accumulation of small, unnoticed issues, is mitigated. Remaining continuously aware of client feedback means that your organisation can anticipate their needs and work to ensure ongoing customer success and satisfaction which means that you retain those all-important key accounts.
Give Customer Thermometer a trial and find out how your customers feel! You will quickly see how easily implemented, simple surveys deliver great response rates that will improve your customer experience and support client retention.