My greatest reward as an entrepreneur isn’t the monetary value of returning customers; it’s the trust and dependability those customers represent. A contract renewal is worth a lot more than just the financial incentive attached to it – it’s a continued vote of confidence and commitment from my clients.
It gives me an enormous sense of accomplishment to know that the services I provide have helped my client succeed. And this past week brought yet another reminder of how valuable the quality of customer satisfaction can be.
One of my clients, the owner of several state-wide retail stores, had been solicited by another marketing firm for a couple of months—a huge, national organization. My client’s supervising office had given this other marketing agency the go-ahead to court all of their franchisees, and was even willing to offer financial support for those who signed up.
As a very small agency, there was no way I could match this other firm’s offer, and I thought my days of serving my long-standing client were numbered. Sure enough, my client asked for a meeting to discuss the future of our contract and lay out how my services compared to those of my giant opponent. At the meeting, he received me kindly as usual, and allowed me to make my case. He explained that he was going to Boston in a few days to meet with other franchisees and the other marketing agency – but before we ended the meeting, he assured me that he was happy with the services we had delivered for the past three years, and that he was “very loyal to the people who helped [him] grow.” We shook hands and agreed to be in touch in a couple of weeks.
I reassured myself that I still had a fighting chance to retain my client, and as promised, I exchanged several calls and emails with him over the next few weeks. Then, this week, he asked me to renew his annual contract, which would expire at the end of this month. He told me on the phone that although the bidding procedure with my competitor had been an interesting experience, he had realized in the process that he was already surrounded by highly capable professionals, and because of that, he had no reason to seek services elsewhere.
Competition is the best kind of reality check. Many organizations renew contracts on a daily basis – in fact, some (like my insurance company) do it so often that they send automatic renewals to their clients. In the fast-and-furious race to keeping a business running smoothly, it’s easy to forget that our customers have a choice: they can walk away at any time. Satisfied customers stick around, and at times, they even forgive performance shortcomings – but as paying customers, they don’t have to be forgiving. If a long-standing client leaves my service, it means I’ve failed to meet their expectations on some level.
I sent my client an updated contract – along with a wine basket thanking him for his amazing vote of confidence and loyalty. What does a contract renewal mean to you?