What is the Magic Behind Client Retention?


By Stephanie Clark.

When I was aspiring to apply to a newly created Manager of Customer Service position with my then-employer, the City of Kitchener, I dove into a study of customer service. Out of the several books I read, “Be Our Guest,” the Disney Institute’s book of customer service secrets, continues to influence my business processes.

Disney offerings extend beyond fantasy vacations into corporate training. A condensed version of “pixie dust” service magic can be found in this article, which summarizes the principles used by Disney.

Attitude of Service

At the heart of managing relationships with clients, expressly with the purpose of nurturing loyalty, is an attitude of service. Perhaps you have heard that it is more cost effective to retain an existing client than it is to attract a new client? Embracing wholehearted service excellence makes sense.

For those of us who work in the most challenging service delivery, that of the virtual career service practitioner, it can seem impossible to create a memorable experience. After all, we cannot shake hands, make eye contact, or communicate with body language.

To create a memorable customer service experience, we must consider every aspect of our business: marketing, processes, client resources, phone conversations, emails, how you bill, when you bill, options you choose to provide, follow-up – the list is endless. It is this attention to the finer points of service that creates the pixie dust.

What’s In It For Me?

You may question where you will find the time, how much this will add to your business expenses, why you’d bother, how to customize service to your own personality and comfort zone – all valid points.

But there are bottom-line reasons why service excellence is indispensable.

  • Research shows that “even a 5 percent increase in customer retention can lead to an increase in profits of between 25 and 95 percent.”
  • And apparently, doctors who spend more time with their patients, providing their version of customer service, avoid being sued.

An exemplary level of service could boost income and reduce the number of client issues – excellent motivators for embracing service excellence.

Goodwill as Pixie Dust Substitute

Without the magic of pixie dust in our toolkit, I am of the opinion that our attempts to create service magic are based overwhelmingly on one attribute, and that is goodwill.

Here are a few ways in which I express goodwill in my business, and which echo the Disney philosophy:

  • When answering the phone, I smile and exude helpfulness. Smiles can be “heard,” and I believe that clients will feel kindness. This is my version of making eye contact.
  • I accept payment plans and trust my clients. And my email replies are customized without fail, adapting my style to put the client at ease and build trust. These value-added touches are my version of creating a magical guest experience.
  • My service offers clients many job-search related resources as part of each package. Their success is, after all, my success as well. This is my way of going above and beyond.
  • As someone who embraces flexibility, I refrain from hard and fast contract rules and timelines: clients receive guidelines and friendly prompts. Allowing each client to drive the urgency of his or her project is my version of courtesy and respect.

Admittedly my “boutique” style of service may not work for all; it’s authentic to me. I honour my need to lessen the opportunity for conflict, as well as my personality, which is comfy in the “people pleasing” zone. I believe that customizing my service delivery is a key aspect of getting my business name into conversations, building my brand, and keeping that pipeline flowing.

There is no universal source of pixie dust and no universal model of the “best” service process. It’s up to each of us to define and execute our vision of remarkable and memorable service.

If you need help defining your own pixie dust service magic, you might consider joining CPC’s next Mastermind Group.

Photo by Cristian Escobar on Unsplash


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Hi Stephanie,

Thanks for the article. I like your suggestions and the data on just a little can increase profits so significantly.

Hi Jude,

It’s so true that much of running a business is rather easy and requires no money, simply a great attitude (and time management, self discipline, hard work!). Similarly the “profit” piece is incremental – it’s about putting in place small steps, improvements, a customer-centric focus.

Thank you for your comment, Stephanie

Hi Cathy,

The authenticity piece is important here, I agree, Cathy. I think that the truth is, whatever we authentically are, so we will attract. If I’m a curmudgeon who pretends to like people, the curmudgeony self will no doubt sneak out and wreak some havoc! If I’m a soft-spoken introvert who pretends to be a boisterous extrovert, again, the authentic persona will thwart the public face. So it’s really important, I think, to honour your own voice and comfort level.

(I am no longer one who believes that we must always challenge our comfort levels. I have come to the realization that we get more out of life honouring who we are and working with what we love!)

And yes to flexibility! I’ve only been disappointed in clients about five times since 2007. (One was a fellow biz owner in my city who chose to not pay me for three letters I wrote on her behalf. You can bet I never recommended her cleaning service to anyone!) But the huge majority come through. Flexibility also means that I have compassion for people’s situations and don’t mind waiting a bit. I like the idea of passing it forward or paying it forward. If I do a kindness in the form of a 3-part payment, for example, I hope the recipient pays it forward at some point in his or her life in some way.

Thanks for commenting, Cathy!