Exit interviews are valued by most employers. When someone leaves a position for another company, you want to know why. You need to know what made that person doubt her future at your company. What attracted her to work for another firm?
Not enough agencies take this approach when a client jumps ship. You close out the account, send the final invoice, and hope that one day the client will return.
The truth is, the client could be leaving for any number of reasons: she doesn’t have a need for your services, her business model has changed, her marketing budget has been slashed, or maybe she was very unhappy.
Whatever the reason, your departing clients are sources of valuable information about the performance of your agency, your communication practices, the value you provide, and why a client would leave you for another firm.
This is knowledge you can use to improve your firm and prevent future clients from leaving you.
Conducting the Client Exit Interview
You know your clients better than anyone, so consider how the person would best provide you with the information you need. Don’t make this step an annoyance in the final days of the relationship. Should you send a digital survey? Would the client appreciate an in-person interview? Do you just send an email with a few open-ended questions?
Whatever the format may be, choose the communication method that’s worked best during the course of your relationship with the client. However, if you can, try to conduct the interview in-person. This will give you a better chance of picking up on non-verbal cues that could be useful when trying to get a complete view of the relationship.
Then, ask these key questions to uncover how the client views your agency and the work you delivered:
1) How was it doing business with us?
This will give you the chance to update your sales tactics, improve your production workflow, and adjust your business practices to be in line with your clients’ needs. Remember: Your way might not be the right way. Keep an open mind, and you’ll discover new ways to keep your clients happy.
2) What did you like about our services?
This will give you a glimpse of what you’re doing right and what you’re doing wrong.
And some of the issues that pop up could be about the services you don’t offer. This can help you get a better idea of demand for a specific deliverable you have been considering, so take this time to learn more about why the client thinks this service is important to her business.
Asking this question also increases the window of opportunity to turn the meeting around and discuss how you might continue to work together. It is possible that the client was not aware of all of your agency’s service lines.
3) Is there anything we could have done differently?
Perhaps there’s something that is a part of your process that annoys your clients. It could be a weekly update email or a lack of consistent updates from your team. It could be that you are contacting the client team too often. This question will allow you to isolate irritating or unproductive initiatives.
4) Has my team communicated with you effectively?
Unfortunately, your clients will be the first to know if your employees aren’t doing their jobs. Some will let you know. Others will sit in silence, letting their concerns go unnoticed and leaving you in the dark when it comes to your employees’ productivity and communication practices. Use this constructive feedback to improve internal training and provide more support to specific team members.
5) Did we meet your expectations?
This is the final question, and it might be the one that you really don’t like the answer to. If the client believes you didn’t meet her expectations, you need to consider if and how you failed or if you did a poor job of setting expectations in the first place. If you failed, you need to review communication between the client and your agency, what due dates were missed, and what deliverables fell short. Knowing that you failed only matters if you work to prevent future similar failures.
Run a client exit interview to gain perspective on your company and how well it lives up to its promises. It’s only when a client is leaving that she may actually provide you with the truth. Value this feedback, make adjustments, and always strive to be better for your next client.