New York (April 14, 2004) -- Twenty to 40 percent of a typical professional service firm's clients are considering defection, yet the majority of professional firms have no system for identifying clients about to defect, according to Harry Mills, author of "The Rainmaker's Toolkit."

These clients are usually those who call to terminate their relationship, or who say nothing but still display many of the tell-tale signs of defection, adds Mills. He recommends what he calls the “EAR Recovery Formula” for saving clients: Empathizing to prove you understand the client’s problem; asking the client how they want the problem resolved; and responding with a tailored solution.

Mills suggests asking those clients questions, such as "Why are you thinking of leaving us?" and "Can I put it right?" “It is imperative that you don’t interrupt the clients as they vent their anger," Mills adds. "And give them time to cool down. Prove to the clients that you really do understand their problems by paraphrasing and clarifying their concerns.”

Firms must find out what problems the client experienced before, where the client plans to go if they leave the firm, and what it is that makes competitors appealing. Then, Mills advises, stress the original need -- “why they were attracted to you in the first place.” Ask why they first came to you, which of your services they’ve found most useful and why. Then ask, "What can we do to compensate for all the trouble we’ve put you to, and keep you as a client?"

When a firm does lose an important client, he also stresses, they should conduct an exit interview to find out why exactly the client stopped using the firm's services, if they shared their concerns before they decided to stop using the firm, and what would make them consider using the firm again.

-- WebCPA staff

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