Customer Retention for Service Providers

Good customer relationship management is the secret to client and customer retention when you're a solo practitioner. 

Stever Robbins
4-minute read
Episode #365

Customer relationship management is a great corporate buzzword, but it applies to small, solo practitioners as well as huge, soul-sucking corporations that exist only to chew you up and spit you when they've squeezed every last dollar out of your bank account. Listener Michael from a city in Poland that only has one vowel (one vowel in the entire city, that is; they take turns using it.) writes:

I am an English-as-a-foreign-language tutor for adults and business clients. Often, clients tell me with no warning that they won't be returning next month. The reasons are often different: no time to do homework, they have other obligations, etc. Many eventually return, so the quality of my service isn't the issue. Do I press clients who want to leave and implore them to stay?

Keep Them Thinking Like Customerscustomer retention

First of all, don't implore: ask. Explain to them, "my practice fills up. Is there a time we should reconnect about resuming?" Don't expect them to say "Yes," but by asking the question, you're priming them to expect your call. You're also forcing their brains to consider the timeframe of the break they're taking.

If they genuinely feel too busy to practice, offer them a solution! Start an accountability service. Explain that regular language exposure helps learning. For an extra fee, call them every day for 5-10 minutes, check in, and hold a brief conversation with them in English, tailored to the material you know they're working on. Even if they don't have time to devote to a full lesson or to full practice, this will help keep them moving forward. You can do this instead of their normal lessons, or you might want to offer it in addition to their regular lessons. "If you're too busy to self-manage, let's continue your lessons and add an accountability piece to help you carve out time and continue your language development."

Retaining Clients Through Program Structure

It sounds like your clients pay on a lesson-by-lesson basis. This makes it easy for them to think of every lesson as a separate purchase decision. Follow my gym's example. Abandon fair, flexible pricing in favor of cutthroat pricing disguised as customer relationship management. Create multi-lesson packages. One class for 30 Zloty, four classes for 100 Zloty, eight classes for 150 Zloty, and so on. Each package must be used within a certain time period, and refunds are not given. Students will want to continue until the end of their current package, and you'll have a certain baseline income guaranteed.

Give Existing Students More Favorable Rates

Price your services so new students pay more—say, 28 Zloty per lesson. If they stay with you for more than four lessons, however, the price drops to 20 Zloty per lesson. When they tell you their sob story about wanting to discontinue, tell them, "If you return within six weeks, you can continue at the 20 Zloty rate, but after that, you count as a new student on the roster, and will be back up to 28 Zloty per lesson."


About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins was the host of the podcast Get-it-Done Guy from 2007 to 2019. He is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT.