Wouldn’t it be great if every one of your customers had a loyal relationship with your agency? You’d get together frequently, maybe over coffee. You’d share some funny personal story. Talk a little business. Get a few new job orders. Smile as you part, looking forward to your next visit.
None the wiser that your customer is interviewing other staffing and recruiting agencies. Why?
Google “easier to retain a customer than to find a new one” (without the quotation marks) and you’ll get over two billion hits. You’ll find some controversy over the reasons—some even put a significant dollar figure on the cost of retention vs. acquisition—but let’s agree that it’s a widely held and probably accurate belief.
It just stands to reason. As a manager of an incumbent staffing and recruiting firm, you have access that outsiders don’t have. Your entire firm, from sales to recruiting and even the back office, all understand far more about your client’s needs than a competing staffing and recruiting firm could ever know. Still, incumbents get kicked to the curb all the time, so how can you take advantage of your advantage? Here are 9 ways to nail client retention:
Joe Girard, recognized in the Guinness Book as the “world’s greatest salesman,” regularly stayed in touch, even when there was no current business need. He sent holiday cards, birthday cards, thank-you notes, and more to all of his customers, and they kept coming back to buy cars from him, giving him an average of six sales a day throughout his career. People do business with staffing and recruiting firms who, of course deliver top talent, but also with firms who respect and remember them. Your clients are human. Ensure your entire organization knows how to show how much they appreciate the business of your clients.
2. Walk the Walk
Any staffing sales person can make promises; however, success is ultimately measured by delivery of promises made. So be sure your sales team and recruiters are connected. Before a promise is made, they should be connecting—perhaps via a weekly pipeline meeting. Demand that your team makes realistic commitments and then delivers on them. And remember that a broken promise can overshadow previous stellar performance. And if your team makes a mistake—and they will, it’s called life—as a manager you should step in immediately, take responsibility, and fix it!
Train your recruiters to go beyond job titles and to understand a position’s actual tasks and required skills. Set up a system that requires your recruiters to internalize your client’s culture and what makes their organization tick. This not only demonstrates your firm’s commitment to your clients, it also enables your recruiters to source more qualified candidates.
Thought leadership can go a long way toward separating you from the crowd of staffing and recruiting firms your organization competes with daily. Blogging and even webinars are great ways to share with your clients and prospects the expert knowledge possessed by key members of your organization. Imagine the mindshare your firm can attain when you share tips and tricks for successful onboarding, retention tactics, and the best employee rewards programs.
5. Offer a Community
Of course you assign specific recruiters to work with your clients, but what about assigning a consistent AP contact as well? And where do you fit in the client nurturing process? Do your clients know you—by name? Yes, you need to manage the business and ensure smooth operations and watch the numbers. Where does client retention specifically fit in your daily list of responsibilities?
Know your organization’s recruiting and staffing strengths. Then insist your team become experts in the area. Train your recruiting team how to find and present the best talent in your area of focus. You may be tempted to penetrate markets in which you don’t have current expertise. While this may seem like capitalizing on an opportunity, it may also present the possibility of damaging the relationship you currently have with your clients. Calculate your risks when looking to grow and diversify your staffing business. If the risk that you could alienate existing clients is high then think again.
7. Sharp-Shoot Instead of Shotgun
Throwing candidates at the wall is tempting recruiter behavior when faced with a tough job to fill. They are just hoping someone sticks. But ultimately sending weak or un-vetted candidates is no way to build solid client relationships. Touch base with your recruiters and ask them which job order is going to be their toughest to fill. Then help them. That’s a managers’ job. And unless you ask, you may not know that a recruiter may be gambling with the reputation of your staffing firm.
8. Train Your “Newbies”
New sales reps need experience to become seasoned professionals, but don’t let them learn at your clients’ expense. Give them all the training, mentoring, and backup you can. That, coupled with the energy and enthusiasm they exhibited in their first interview with you, is a pretty irresistible combination.
You can usually tell a good sales or recruiting pro by the tools they use—and use well. Top-notch recruiting software helps your sales personnel close deals efficiently and lets your recruiters fill jobs faster and more effectively. Your clients won’t really know that automation is the difference between your team and your competitor’s, but they’ll feel the difference.
So, while we all would love to keep onboarding new clients, remember how easy and cost effective it is to retain existing clients. Invest in retention. Make sure your clients know how good you are and how much you care about them.
And don’t forget, a high customer retention rate is also a great draw for new business.