It would seem to be the obvious, current clients matter. However what is said and what is done can often be two very different things. The organisations who get it right reap the rewards and those who don’t risk untold damage.
Current clients can be a valuable source of information and marketing if you choose to engage with them and do it right.
Businesses and not-for-profits tend to focus their energy on obtaining new clients, but what about the existing clients? Often existing clients are taken for granted. There is a feeling of ‘we have them already and they won’t go anywhere, so they are not our top priority. On the other hand organisations are quick to ask them for more money, to buy new things or make a donation for example.
Current clients matter, but it can’t be a one-way street. The reality is the communications with current clients are often poor. They get asked for things but rarely given an opportunity to offer real feedback that is heard with real people responding. Just as rarely are they given real insights into what is happening in an organisation outside of some ‘feel good’ stories strategically positioned in a newsletter. Current clients are stakeholders who hold the key maintaining a target market and growing it. They are a source of knowledge and can also be a valuable marketing tool. The one proviso is you must engage with them.
Let me give you two examples I have been dealing with this week. I will leave the names of the companies out, though I can say they are both internationally recognised.
My TV stopped working recently and so I rang the manufacturer to have it repaired. They did agree to send someone out (at their expense) to assess the problem. When the repairer (who works for the manufacturer) arrived he said it was an easy fix and completed the job on the basis that I paid him on the spot for the manufacturer to then reimburse me. I then began what has been an ongoing drama with the manufacturer to claim $14o back. So far I have made 6 calls and sent several emails. After three weeks they announced I was required to fill in a claims form. Why they did not tell me this when the matter was first raised continues the poor communication. I was told the form would be emailed to me later in the day, but 24 hours later it has still not arrived. Another call was made to which I was told, the ‘system’ is still sending it and if you don’t receive it later in the day please call back. I calmly asked the person to relay to their manager how poorly this situation had been managed for such a small sum of money. Whilst I was assured it would be past on, I have my doubts. While the anger is steadily rising in me (the client), I then hear clapping in the background – just what a disgruntled client wants to hear. To cap it off the call is finished their pre-scripted ending thanking me for choosing their brand. They have done so many thinks wrong. It could have been a great story about how the problem was easily resolved and they value the quality of their product. Instead it is a story of a client who apparently does not matter.
My other example is the opposite. I signed up for something on the understanding of a particular schedule being put in place. The schedule I was later sent was different to the discussion. Similarly the same company had accidentally double charged me for an event I attended. I immediately sent a very polite email stating the issues. Within an hour not only did I have a response, I had a new direct contact with an accounts person and all the issues were immediately rectified. They ticked every box of excellent communication. The client matters.
Imagine the damage being caused in the first example if many of their current clients have had similar experiences.
Think about your own personal experiences of being a client and how you felt when you had something you wanted to raise. It does not matter whether it was positive or negative.