Acquiring new clients is a key part of building your business, but that should not come at the expense of retaining and deepening ties with the clients you already have. These existing connections are often the secret to networking – people who can vouch for your performance and character and introduce you to their inner circles. But how can you establish loyalty and prevent clients from straying?

Learning to determine your client experience blind spots is an important component of our coaching relationships. Accenture’s 2011 Global Consumer Research Study unveiled the fraught consumer-provider relationship: While people often express satisfaction with the companies they patronize, they feel less loyalty than they did in 2010, due in part to low engagement and disappointing client experience. As a result, they are more likely to bounce between providers and regularly evaluate all their options. On the service provider side, many businesses are unaware of the effects their actions had on their clients.

The researchers uncovered five main client engagement points that could be deciding factors in whether a client stays with a provider or seeks out a different company.

  1. Setting expectations at the beginning of the relationship; 
  2. Identifying changes in the client’s need to be recognized, rewarded and treated specially;
  3. Watching for signs of a client’s “cheating heart”;
  4. Listening to a client’s needs and challenges;
  5. Giving a client the chance to engage with the provider.

In order to achieve sustained growth, your firm needs to engage its clients and continuously work to improve the client experience. Satisfaction with the service is not enough, Accenture found, and companies need to focus on building loyalty if they want to keep their clients’ eyes from wandering. Continuing to meet their rising expectations should also be a primary focus for businesses, and 31 percent of responding consumers in mature markets and 59 percent of those in emerging markets reported having increased expectations in the past year. Simple things such as cutting down the time a client spends waiting on hold will keep a client satisfied, but it will not engage them – which is the most important factor in retaining your customers, the researchers said.

Do you have a process in your firm for identifying client experience strengths and weak spots? Is there a metric you use for measuring the company’s performance when it comes to addressing client complaints?

Take a moment to reassess the relationship you have with the client and how you are addressing each of your common interests. Results (or substantive interests) address the objective outcomes of an investment or other service, while the process (or procedural interest) concerns your engagement and involvement of the client through the creation and execution of the plan. The emotional (or psychological interest) requires you as the entrepreneur or client relationship manager to focus on how the client is reacting to the strategy and whether they are getting what they want out of the business relationship.