A twelve-part blog series outlining how to save, turnaround, and grow, your struggling or failing professional client service consultancy, architects practice, design studio, marketing communications (marcomms), PR, digital or creative agency business.
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Total Business Turnaround
Part 09 | Working With Clients
Without clients or customers, you don’t have a business. It is as simple as that. Keeping your customers happy and coming back is key to your success. A disgruntled client is like having five clients who will never give you any work, projects or sales.
Never give a client reason to let their network know you’ve let them down. With less active clients around than in more buoyant times, your reputation is more critical to your survival and success than ever before.
Clients and Their Effect on Continuity
Your existing clients, those with live projects or sales about to confirm, are your most crucial ones. They are not only the answer to your immediate cash flow issues, but will ensure you can take care of things in the coming months while you regain your footing.
Depending on how your restructuring process was carried out, and how quietly it was done, your clients may not even be aware that you have been having problems.
Whether they do or not, at the appropriate time it may be a good idea to give them at least an overview of what’s been going on. If you or your team has a strong relationship with your clients, then they will be supportive and trust that you’ll continue to do good work and provide them with excellent products and services.
Upon hearing that you’ve restructured, your clients will be concerned over the copyrights of the work they have procured from you. They will be worried that they may not have the right to use the work or will they have to pay again. They will also worry about the copyright of any supporting material used within the product or service they have purchased.
Have an email or letter ready to be issued once you’ve instigated any restructuring process to show your clients that you are fully aware of their concerns and that you are proactively dealing with those issues.
Ownership and Outstanding Invoices
If you’ve restructured through a liquidation, you clients will want to be certain that if they pay an outstanding invoice to the company in liquidation, they will own the product that they have paid for. In some instances, the client will argue that they don’t have to pay the outstanding invoice because the company is in liquidation.
Issue the invoice along with some kind of communication that proves the new company has purchased the old business assets, including the outstanding invoices in the debtor book.
You need to do your best to head off rumours before they get any traction and quash those that are making the rounds. Understand that your management, your staff, your creditors, suppliers, and your clients will experience or spread the rumours about you and your business, either knowingly or otherwise and while your clients may not pay attention to the rumours, it’s better to be certain and contact them directly.
Communicate your situation and reassure them that everything is moving forward despite the issues you are facing.
Building and Maintaining Trust
If your clients trust you, they will generally be more loyal and more likely to help you through this process, especially if they are aware of the difficulties you are facing. You need to maintain trust through communication. If your client is unsure about what’s going on with your business, and uncertain of your abilities and focus, they will most likely not trust you or your team to deliver their project. In that case, they will begin to look for some other provider they can trust, which will just make things more difficult for you.
Trust is built through continuity. By continually offering great products and services in the past, by continually putting your clients first, you built up their trust in the past. You need to maintain and build-up that trust by reminding them of having been a great business in the past, and reassuring them that you continue to offer the same level of service, quality and creativity they have come to expect. Let them in on some of the details about how you intend to maintain and improve the standards your business adheres to.
If you have worked hard to develop solid, long-term relationships with your clients, they should be loyal to you. In many cases, this has been sorely tested by the economic problems we are currently facing, especially in the retail sector with customers doing everything they can to find the lowest prices, but for most professional relationships it still holds true.
It is up to you to be in your clients minds just enough so you’re the first company they think of when it comes time to show their loyalty, and that means you must make satisfying their needs—as much as you would any partner or vendor—your top priority.
Make Your Deliverables
The primary concern of your clients, assuming that they are still willing to buy from you now that you are going through the restructuring process, is your ability to deliver as promised. This is especially true if it is a longer term project as there’s more of a chance of you going under if times are hard. If it’s a quick hit project and you have a good relationship they may not be as concerned, but they will be wary.
It’s up to you and your team to ensure that your clients are happy with progress you are making on their work and that your team is able to deliver. It can’t be the client’s problem or inconvenience that you can’t deliver for any reason.
Quality and Price
The worse a market is, the more competitive it becomes until only a few are left standing. In order for you to be one of the ones left standing, you have to make some strategic decisions regarding price and quality to make sure that can happen. Especially examine market expectations and demand before you make any decisions.