The Psychology Behind Successful Client Retention

Paul Kazkyak

Paul Kazkyak

Sr. Account Executive

Whether it is a self-preservation of emotions, moral identity, physical harm, etc. at its' root we tend to use loyalty as a way to protect ourselves.

Whether your company is a tiny start-up or a veteran industry leader, it seems to be that we are all constantly focused on client retention. It is a topic of conversation almost every time I am sitting with a business owner. We see it on a daily (if not hourly) basis while we watch tv, as companies desperately attempt to have you identify with their brand and thus engage with their products over any other’s. Money is spent hand over fist every year in research alone trying to find the best way to retain clients. So, let’s take a quick look into the psychology behind the concept of loyalty, the importance of client retention, and some of the best practices.

Self -Preservation And The Psychology Behind The Concept of Loyalty

As a psych grad myself, I tend to try and grasp a bit of the psychology behind concepts whenever tackling anything client related. Client retention always seems to be the topic that makes the most sense for this psychological launching platform process. I am a bit of a platonist, so rather than jumping into something like “marketing psychology” or “brand psychology”, I prefer to focus on the concept of loyalty in the general sense and the psychology behind it.

One theme of loyalty that I’ve found stringed through a number of psychological writings seem to be that it is an extremely complex emotion (duh) that centers itself around self-preservation. It is from here that the concepts become a bit more complicated as self-preservation in terms of loyalty could mean a moral preservation rather than something more direct like physical preservation (i.e. literal survival).

I feel it is extremely important if not anything else to understand loyalty from this aspect. The idea that loyalty stems subconsciously from the angle of self-preservation. That in creating an unwritten contract, we tie ourselves to people or brands or groups in order to feel a sense of security. Whether it is a self-preservation of emotions, moral identity, physical harm, etc. at its’ root we tend to use loyalty as a way to protect ourselves. I could continue to ramble on going deeper and deeper into the psychology of loyalty but for the purpose of this blog post, this particular point is a good launching point.

Why Client Retention Is So Important

For those of you actually asking why client retention is so important… there is the door; if I have to explain to you why it literally is important then you can’t be helped. Only kidding! We all understand why retaining clients is important at a surface level but as you peel back some of the layers you see how client retention roots itself deeply into your company’s identity. It is probably one of the largest if not the single most important indicator of your company’s health and future growth. The end goal of every project no matter how big or small should always be, above all else, to create a “brand evangelist”.

Brand evangelists are the people that go out and preach the name of your company across the land (but are not on the payroll of course). These are the Apple fans that no matter how crappy that stupid touch bar is on the new MacBook pros, will still go out and look you in the eye and tell you it’s the next big thing (it’s not… it’s stupid). I know what you’re thinking, “But Paul, how can I create a brand evangelist after only doing a little one-hour project with a client?!”

Apple fans, or iSheep Fans, will buy just about everything Apple comes out with

Well, life is a marathon and not a sprint, stop complaining, play like a champion, and all those other clichés. You need to think in terms of the long game. Sometimes that tiny project has the moment to seize in order to create the coveted “brand evangelist” but it may not happen the first go-round. However, if your product and process are what they should be, then it lines you up for another project, continually giving you the opportunity to create that customer that is so loyal to your brand that they sing your praises far and wide.

I know what you’re thinking, “loyalty”, this is where the tie-in happens and you’re right. As a brand, it’s vital to realize that the loyalty of your customers comes from a sense of self-preservation and even more importantly vice versa. The more I spend time developing relationships in the business world the more I realize just how similar they are to actual relationships. There is the courting, the showing of competence, the occasional squabble and if it is a relationship that is built to last, the eventual admiration and respect for the other. Remember that this sense of loyalty from your clients comes from a sense of self-preservation.

Overall it’s what they want, to be engaged in a business relationship where they feel safer by being tied to you and again vice versa your brand feeling safer by being tied to them. If your brand is unable to retain clients then reverse engineer process and ask yourself these questions:

  • Where in the start to finish of a project are you losing them?
  • How long ago was your last “victory” from the client’s point of view
  • Is the client being loyal to you in the best interest their company’s self-preservation and future growth?

There are tons of lists out there that talk about the top 10 or 20 tips for client retention/loyalty, but most of them are lengthy and rigid. So, here is my streamlined list of tips that I have personally seen work in action:

Understand your client’s “why” and make sure they understand yours

Some tie this in with sharing your values with your clients “cough” (this blog) “cough” but overall it’s just about making sure your clients understand who you are rather than JUST what you do. It’s about stressing the importance of a company’s “why” and it’s something at Bright Oak we truly stand by.

Be Transparent!

People hate mechanics and car salesmen because there is a constant fear of not really knowing what you’re getting and many many people being taken advantage of. The longer I work in web development this seems to be a growing trend in our industry. We always promote asking questions and try and make sure our clients have some sort of understanding of the work being done.

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

Seriously, talk to your clients. As I said before, business relationships are just like regular relationships. Don’t try and tell me you’re significant other wouldn’t leave you if you didn’t talk with them. Same goes for your business relationships, good communication is key and some it better than none and more is better than less.

Help Your Clients Become Experts

This ties in with the last two points. When I am communicating with my clients and I really take the time to give them an insight into what’s being done, it not only shows transparency but also emphasizes my expertise on the subject which builds trust and drum roll please…. LOYALTY *Fireworks*

Know When You’re Wrong

Please, let’s check all egos at the door. Things don’t always go smoothly, people make mistakes, you’re only compounding the mistake by stubbornly denying fault. Use opportunities of fault as moments to show your clients your brand’s ability to go above and beyond.

I may talk down on some of the lists out there but I by no means think mine is perfect! Comment below with anything you think should be on this list.

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