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Your Clients Aren't Happy. How To Make Sure They're Happy Every Month

Posted by Mike Lieberman on Jul 17, 2019 8:48:00 AM

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Unhappy Agency ClientsSome days it seems like no one is happy. When in reality, the handful of unhappy clients get 90% of your attention, while most of the happy clients get little or none of your attention. Sometimes this makes it feel like everyone isn’t happy and that’s just not the case.

Regardless, the goal should be to make as many clients happy as possible. While you’ll never get ALL of them to be happy. Even the best and nicest restaurant have a handful of bad reviews. The key here is to build process and systems that work together with your teams to ensure a large majority of your clients are happy, referenceable and willing to write a review.

The most successful businesses have processes for everything. So why not a process for making sure your clients hare happy. Here’s how we work to make our 40 to 50 active clients happy every single month.

Setting Expectations and Definitions of Success

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. So are results and success. If you and your client are not on the same page from day one, you are going to have an unhappy client on your hands.

I’ve seen this happen many times. Sales and the prospect discuss expectations. Sales says what they need to say to get the deal done and then client services is left to reset those expectations. This is very difficult to do. Does this sound like your agency?

In another scenario, client services is hesitant to talk about results and success because they’re not sure they can deliver. They ignore it until the client says, “I thought I was getting 100 leads this month not 80 leads.”

Both scenarios lead to distrust and rough client engagements, but these are easily prevented.

First, leverage client services in the sales process. Prospects want to meet who they’ll be working with anyway and bringing in client services in helps create the services recommendations and the prospect gets a richer experience.

More importantly it puts the expectations conversation front and center. If you can’t agree on what success looks like, you might have an unqualified prospect.

This process then continues into the engagement. Every 90 days you should be asking your clients to define success. You should agree on the definition as attainable. You can remind them monthly as you do your 30-day planning and when the quarter wraps up, there should be no ambiguity about whether the quarter was a success or not.  

Make Someone On The Team Accountable

This might sound obvious, but its not. We tried making the client services team accountable. Of course, that makes too much sense, right? First, clients don’t always want to give their immediate team the no fluff feedback. They’re afraid of hurting their feelings.

Next, the team doesn’t always wan to ask how we’re doing when they have other agenda items that need to be handled like getting stuff approved and moving work forward.

When I say make someone accountable, I mean someone other than the day to day team handling the client. They are too close to be effective.

Instead, I assigned my Creative Director to also be accountable for Client Success and I have her defining her role with new clients and then working closely with them to create the rhythms required to get the feedback we need to be effective.

I think you need someone senior in this role. It can be you, or your number two, but I think leaving it up to the consultants is not giving it the attention it deserves.

Track It

You have data on the other aspects of your agency, why not on how happy your clients are. You do want to set up a scoring system. It can be one to 10, like NPS. It can be one to five or it can be three faces, like HubSpot uses. Honestly, I’m not sure it matters.

I prefer a more granular scoring mechanism, but that’s personal preference. On the question of using the actual NPS (net promoter score) methodology. Been there done that and it doesn’t work for our agency. There are not enough data points and the scoring is too arbitrary for me to get value from that particular methodology.

Today, we simply ask how happy are you with us as your partner? Ten, so happy you would be willing to give us a reference, write a review or refer us. If it’s a one, you’re considering firing us. We also remind them of our agreed-on definition of success. Going into the call, we already have a good idea of what they’ll say because we know if we hit the success criteria or not.

Generally, if we achieve our agreed-on definition of success our clients score us nine or 10.

Set Up Early Warning Systems

What I like the most about our system today is it provides an early warning system. Most clients are very consistent. Most clients are happy but depending on how they score even happy clients might be comfortable giving us a seven or an eight. No problem.

But I expect to continue to earn those scores or even higher over time. If they drop to six or five, I know we have a problem. Just like the clients who consistently give us nines and then one-month scores us a seven. Both of these scenarios trigger action to find out what happened, what changed and what’s going on.

It’s this trigger process and the people responsible for executing it that makes this data, system and overall client satisfaction playbook so effective.

The personal interaction on the clients whose situation has changed makes us very proactive and very responsive which makes clients who have new challenges very comfortable that regardless of what happened, we’re on it to fix it and make sure everything returns to normal. Neutral moves back to happy.

Configure It For The Clients

The other big take away for us is you can’t automate this. Clients get automated survey’s all day long. I know, I get them too and I delete almost all of them. I’m not sure client services is an automatable part of the agency business.

We don’t have 400 clients, we have 45. We can afford to reach out to them personally. But the biggest learning for us came this year when we started working with them to customize the outreach rhythm. We talked to every client and asked them. Do you want to talk to us monthly, quarterly or more frequently? Do you want us to email you? Call you? Or send you an electronic survey? What frequency do you want that electronic outreach?

It was this extra step to share with them how important this is to us and that we wanted it to be perfectly matched with their desire to share feedback with us that unlocked the level of participation you need to make this truly effective.

Sending a survey out to 30 people and getting three responses back month over month is a waste of time. You’re not learning anything and you’re just looking silly sending the same survey month over month.

The personal touch made all the difference in the world. It solidified a personal relationship we created a system that works for each client individually.


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Start Today Tip – You can set up your own client satisfaction measurement and follow up system in just a few hours. Assign it to someone at the top of your organization, it might very well be you. Decide on your scoring system and start talking to your clients about how they’d like to engage with you around this important metric. One tip I like to use with clients is to model programs like this for them and remind them they should be doing something similar. “Oh, you don’t do this, we can help you set it up, communicate it, track it and report on it for you.” This is one of the best ways to sell additional services to clients. After all, you and your clients both need customers to participate in the advocacy component of revenue generation. The better you can model it for your clients, the more comfortable they’ll be hiring you to execute it.

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Topics: Client Feedback, Client Satisfaction, client retention

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