Q: What is the single solution to retaining B2B service contracts?
A: Do more, now.
Yes, it’s a trick question and a Sisyphean answer. But the truth is whatever service contractors do to retain contracts and customer relationships, they should always be doing more.
The reality is there is no single solution for retaining accounts; not for protecting revenue or profit, nor for keeping competitors away. The natural forces pushing against contractors’ account retention can be overwhelming.
Retention’s Many Parts
Account retention has many moving parts, and that complexity creates an almost infinite number of vulnerabilities to keep customers’ contracts.
1) Customers First
Customers have many stakeholders who experience outsourced services and who assess the service’s worth, such as:
- End-users – who rely on outsourced services to enable their own productivity, output, creativity, etc.
- Departmental managers – who are responsible for the day-to-day contributions from outsourced services
- Procurement – who sources potential contractors, manages contract purchases, evaluates proposals & alternative solutions
- Executive & senior leadership – who directs companies’ successes & viability, which are supported by outsourced services
Add to these numerous stakeholders, the new business reality that service expectations have changed. They’re now warped by technology-hype in a kind of societal groupthink where miracles are expected, even in the most labor-intensive services.
2) Contractors Count
Contractor teams deliver service and communicate value from on-site operations up to and including their own corporate leadership.
And since this is the case, one would think that service contractors had:
- Well-defined relationship roles with specific customers,
- Proactive relationship-building activities,
- Processes for customer-intel gathering,
- Frictionless & regular internal sharing of customers’ insights, and
- Smooth, quick changes to their customers’ situations
But there’d you’d be mistaken.
While there are a number of savvy service contractors with a more advanced approach to retention, they are the exceptions, not the rule.
3) Infinite Service Interactions
Taken together, numerous customer stakeholders and the many contractor team members involved, create an exponential number of service interactions daily.
And each interaction is an opportunity to strengthen or diminish customers’ reasons for retaining their outsourced contractors.
All these interactions can be tenuous, fragile, and uncontrolled by the outsourced contractors: this is service delivery after all.
When it comes to account retention, what can contractors do?
Do More Now
Doing more now to retain accounts doesn’t mean doing everything at once – it’s adding something to what may already be in place, but doing more now.
And because there isn’t one big solution to account retention, it’s realistic to launch one or more smaller, manageable initiatives: a soft-launch, incremental approach to improvement.
The greatest challenge for virtually all contractors is adding new retention initiatives to their teams’ existing workload: Retention work is no one’s job yet everyone’s job.
However, if contractors allow this obstacle to paralyze new retention initiatives, there can be no surprise when their key customers find new outsourced partners.
There is no future time when a business will be distraction-free: Tomorrow will be like today with only the names of the challenges that will have changed. While there are many best-practices for retention initiatives from which to choose (I’m aware of at least 10 key ones), why not pick a couple and get started?
This article first published on LinkedIn.