Make It Hard for Your Clients to Break Up With You

It’s five times more expensive to acquire new clients than to retain current ones. For audit / assessment firms, that’s a costly problem to have. The good news is, even a small reduction in client churn can boost your bottom line.

For professional services firms, top reasons for client turnover included:

  • Projects going over budget or past deadline
  • Communication issues
  • Lack of visibility into project status

Assessment firms that address these areas have a better chance of improving customer loyalty. Want to reduce the chances your compliance client will break up with you? Here’s a few quick wins to reduce client churn.

Related reading: 4 Things to Remember About Your Compliance Clients

Build in Buffer Time

Somebody is going to call in sick. Someone else will get a project dumped on their lap. Your point person will forget to pass important information to the team. Whatever form they take, forces will conspire to derail your engagement and throw it off schedule.

When you fall behind, a domino drops: you turn up the heat on your client. Now they need to work faster and harder to submit evidence. In the rush, things get dropped or completed incorrectly with less time for course corrections. That means rework and resubmitting, which puts everyone farther behind. Meanwhile, your point person is starting to get a little ticked because both you and their supervisor are breathing down their neck.

At some point, someone in the client organization wonders aloud if other assessor firms operate this way.

Handpicked related content: Keep Compliance Engagements On Track Without Lifting a Finger

Instead of playing catch-up from Day One, build buffer time into your schedule. Assume things will go sideways a few times. Acknowledge that someone new is bound to be on your client’s team and they’ll need to learn along the way. Make peace with the fact that you’ll need to do some education and training.

Rather than walking into an engagement already expecting it to fall behind, why not walk in with a more realistic schedule? It will help reduce everyone’s stress, since you know it’s going to happen anyway. You’ve got a happier client who enjoys working with you, and you have some breathing room to offer the support your client needs, appreciates, and expects.

Be Timely

The flip side of that is to make sure you aren’t the bottleneck in the flow of things. The quicker you can process submissions and turn them back to the client, the easier it makes things on the customer. They’re busy managing compliance tasks and doing their core work. It doesn’t take long for them to lose details — what they did, where they got the information from, who they talked to, even the awkward process to pull a report.

QSAs that take their time to follow up are placing a bigger burden on their clients. Working with the assessor becomes more tedious and requires more effort. At some point, the client begins to wonder if other firms are more responsive and easier to work with.

Being quick with your responses will help make you the QSA that clients are loyal to.

Don’t Assume Anything Is Common Sense

You’ve been in the compliance space for years. You’ve forgotten more about compliance than they’ll ever know. You’re not just familiar with compliance, you’re an expert.

Your client, on the other hand, isn’t.

It’s remarkably easy to forget how confusing security and compliance is, and to begin treating it as if it actually made common sense. From there, compliance tasks become unspoken expectations. When your clients don’t meet those expectations, you get frustrated and your clients become resentful.

You’ll strengthen your client relationships if you remember back to the days when you were still a learner and you were just trying to keep your head above water. Definitions were confusing, and explanations needed explaining. Relationships between requirements didn’t make sense and rationales were opaque. That’s how your client feels.

Even if you’ve been working with your client for years, new hires are dealing with security and compliance for the first time. None of this is common sense for them.

Keep that in mind when you’re interacting with your clients. You don’t have to talk to them like they’re a three-year-old, but also don’t make assumptions about what they know. Make yourself available to answer questions, and make it a habit to ask if your explanations make sense. You’ll put them at ease, and they’ll actually learn more quickly.

Clarify Your Communication

If you fall into the common-sense trap, it’s easy to jot a quick response request and send it to the client, assuming they’ll understand what you’re asking for. In reality, you may be creating more confusion — or, worse, anger.

No one likes a cryptic email. It may not communicate the intended message very well, but it will send other clear messages:

  • I don’t have time for you.
  • You should know this — and if you don’t, you’re an idiot.
  • I don’t really want to be on this engagement.
  • I think too highly of myself and too little of you.
  • I don’t appreciate the fact that you’re busting your butt to fulfill requests you don’t understand while also trying to do your regular job.

Before hitting Send, reread your emails through the lens of a compliance newbie. Will the email be helpful? If not, spend a little more time on your emails. You may be surprised at the effect it has.

Give Them Tools for Daily Compliance Success

When you get through an engagement, you have a prime opportunity to shift the approach of your client’s organization. Operationally, there’s an assumption that everyone is doing what they’re supposed to be doing throughout the year, when they’re supposed to — daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, semi-annually or annually. But the fact is, as the annual audit comes around, there’s a crazy sprint to take care of all the compliance stuff. Often, as you’ve experienced many times over, things are missed by the client throughout the year.

You have a prime opportunity to go in at the end of the engagement and help clients to actually make the shift to continuous compliance. At TCT, we call it Operational Mode.

The idea of Operational Mode sounds great, in theory — do small and easy tasks on a regular basis throughout the year, so that you don’t have a whole lot of pain and a giant mess to take care of at the end of the year. But human nature generally flies in the face of logic, and doing Operational Mode is a lot easier said than done without help.

But a compliance management tool like TCT Portal automates the hard work of Operational Mode, and introduces the accountability that teams need to stay on top of their compliance tasks throughout the year.

By connecting your clients to a powerful compliance automation tool, you’re making yourself an invaluable partner to their organization and helping clients to eliminate major frustrations from their security and compliance efforts. That kind of value pays off in dividends.

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

Are you making it hard for your security and compliance clients to break up with you? Which of these best practices do you need to start implementing first — or start practicing at the next level?

When you become a partner that makes compliance easier and less confusing, clients will hold onto you for all you’re worth!

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