Every coach has been there.
A regular client finishes a session one day and just never comes back.
No warning. No good-bye. No obvious reason.
I'm here to tell you three common reasons, even if your client won't.
I'm not talking about the obvious stuff here. You don't need my help to understand that a colossal service failure, a lack of value delivered, or a lousy experience will cost you clients.
I'm talking about the subtle things. The "micro-failures" that don't register when they happen. But one day, they all add up to the client deciding if you are worth the expense.
Lack of Consistency
Say what you want about McDonald's or Starbucks. You can't deny that they are masters at delivering a consistent experience. No matter where you are, you know exactly what to expect when you walk into one of their stores. And you get it.
Consistency is comfortable.
If you approach activities in your business in a ad-hoc manner, your clients never know what to expect. Sometimes, their experience will be great. Other times, just average. Sometimes, they'll think you really get them. Other times, they'll think you are frustratingly difficult to deal with.
That hot-and-cold reaction leads to uncertainty. Uncertainty leads to a lack of confidence in the outcome. Lack of confidence in the outcome leads to looking for someplace else to go.
How to fix it
Steal a page from McDonald's and Starbucks' playbook.
Create your own playbook.
Create, test, and enforce standard operating procedures. Do this for as much of the business as you can. These procedures ensure that everyone delivers the same experience every time.
I know what you're thinking.
"Standard operating procedures sounds so bureaucratic and limiting."
In one sense, they are limiting. They limit the things you and all your employees do in common situations to the actions that work best.
Do you know what that does?
It frees you up to engage with the client. When no one on your team needs to worry about how to get something done, they can use that mental energy to connect with clients.
Speaking of making connections with clients, that brings us to...
Lack of Relationships
A wise friend of mine once said, "people do business with people they like."
No matter your business, there are plenty of competitors that can deliver service of equal quality at an equal price.
What can't they match?
The relationships you and your team have with your clients.
Compare these two scenes.
A client spends a good part of a session rehearsing an important conversation they need to have with someone the next day.
At the end of the session, you wish them luck with their conversation and confirm your meeting time for two weeks from now.
Radio silence until the next scheduled meeting.
Now picture this instead.
Two days after your session, you send off a quick text asking how the conversation went and how your client is feeling about it.
Which version do you think made your client feel more connected to your business?
Clients are people. Not walking, talking credit cards. They want to be recognized and supported. When they aren't, the best case scenario is that they think of you only as a transaction. At worst, they think of you as someone who really doesn't care about them.
So why should they care about you?
How to fix it
First, be curious and caring. Be engaged with what's going on with your clients and make the effort to connect beyond just showing up for sessions. Even if that "extra work" isn't explicitly included in the deliverables you promised when they signed up.
If you have a team, that welcoming, curious approach you take toward your clients needs to extend to your employees, too. If you don't make your employees feel connected to your business, you can't expect them to do that for your clients.
Second, hire better. Some people are just much better at connecting than others. You need to make sure you are looking for those personality traits along with any other relevant qualifications.
A warning. Do not try to fake this. The only way this works is if it's genuine. Anything less will blow up in your face in spectacular fashion.
Lack of Growth
If you don't change with the times, you'll be left behind.
Your clients' needs and tastes will evolve over time. If you don't evolve along with them, you will be the coach they outgrew. If that happens, it won't matter what else you do right. You won't be what they need today.
You'll be like that friend from high school who, years later, is still living senior year. They may like you, but they don't have anything in common with you anymore.
But what about all that consistency I was just talking about?
The McDonalds or Starbucks store of today is noticeably different than the store of a few years ago. Delivering a consistent experience over time does not mean that it never changes.
The important parts don't change. The important parts are how your clients feel doing business with you and what your practice does for them.
The specifics must evolve with the client and the times.
How to fix it
The biggest hint this is an issue for your practice is when you notice clients are asking for things you don't do (or haven't yet done).
When you start hearing those requests, you should be asking yourself what that says about changes in the market. Then you need to figure out how (or if) you need to make changes in your business.
This is where having those relationships I talked about is helpful. Clients who feel connected to you are a lot more likely to ask about what you can do. They want to do business with you. The clients who aren't connected will just look elsewhere for what they need.
about the author
Ed Erickson is the CEO of Pitch Perfect Digital, a digital marketing agency serving coaches, consultants, and other service providers.
For more information, visit his website (https://pitchperfectdigital.com)