We all know that it can cost much more to attract new clients than to retain old ones. So, why do clients leave?  Or the even bigger question, why do they not refer us? More often than not, it has less to do with result dissatisfaction, and more to do with poor client service. As a high school and college student, I worked in retail to offset the cost of school. Working in retail taught me a surprising number of things about the “business” world, but what stuck out from that time is that clients would usually forgive if you didn’t have something in their size or even if they couldn’t find what they were looking for, but rarely forgave bad service.

Whether you work in a shop, a restaurant or a law office, you can retain your clients by showing them you care with exceptional client service. Here are a few more things that working in retail has taught me about client service (in any environment):

  • Be Honest and Upfront – It never failed that during our busiest times, we didn’t have some outfit or dress that was “all the rage” and ALWAYS on those days, someone was out sick. I had a lot of return clients, and one of the ways I kept them coming back was by always letting being honest up front. If I knew we didn’t have the item in their size I wouldn’t even show it to them, or I’d offer to order it before they even got their hopes up. If a bride wanted a particular gown, and I knew that it would be pushing it to make her wedding date, I’d warn her up front, tell her all about any additional charges and then usually make some quick alternative suggestions that I knew would fit within her time frame comfortably. Your clients will be a lot more willing to work with you if you keep them in the loop. Show them the respect of honesty and they’ll stick with you.
  • Accept Responsibility – In my first few days as a sales associate, I messed up a few orders (okay, a lot). Rather than blaming it on the manufacturer or the seamstress or someone else, I explained what happened, told them I had made a mistake, and apologized. More often than not, my clients (and my boss) were understanding and appreciated my honesty. If you’ve made a mistake, your clients will respect you a lot more if you own up to it and make it right, rather than pointing the finger at someone else.
  • Get to Know Your Clients – Like I mentioned above, I had a lot of return clients. I knew them by name, and if they had specific things they liked, colors, etc. and I always remembered their sizes. I made it a point to remember special details about their lives and occasions. I took the time to learn their interests and always spent a few minutes talking with them about those things. I didn’t always have time to have a long discussion, but it only took a few seconds to ask how their daughter’s soccer game went or ask about their sports team. Make the time to get to know a little bit about your clients. They’ll feel important and at ease with you and your firm. It’s the little things that make a big difference.
  • Go the Extra Mile – Whether my client had a specific occasion or just a regular annual “need”,  a special issue that made trying on our clothes more difficult, or anything that kept them from enjoying our store atmosphere and experience, I always tried to do something extra to make sure they were happy. I had an elderly woman who always loved our “sweater sets” and hated to try them on because it messed up her hair, just after she’d gone to have it “done”, so I make her a cup of hot tea or iced tea, depending upon the season, sit her in a comfy chair and model the latest “sets” for her , in the colors I thought she’d look best in. Do that little extra for your client, no matter how small. They’ll remember that you did and keep coming back.
  • Keep Your Cool (no matter what) – Unfortunately, some clients will never be happy no matter what you do. Something will always be wrong no matter how hard you try. It will take too long, be not enough, not fair, etc. When we had a client like this at work, we used the old adage, “Kill ‘em with kindness.” Smile, apologize, fix it, and fix it again. Most importantly, don’t let your client see you get upset or lose your temper.

Whether you’re a sales associate in a retail store, a team member of a law firm or an attorney, your success depends on how you treat your clients. Treat them well, and they’ll be with you and your firm for years to come.

“If we don’t take care of the client, somebody else will.”  – Unknown