Client retention tip: Use a Warmth & Competence strategy

Improve client retention by adopting a “Warmth & Competence” strategy at your agency

The ideal business strategy fits on a bumper sticker or a T-shirt. Why? Because your team is more likely to follow an easy-to-remember strategy, versus a 20-page plan.

If you want to improve client retention at your agency, try this bite-size but extremely powerful business strategy: Warmth & Competence.

The concept (from the book The HUMAN Brand) helps explain how agencies can have better client relationships—in particular, what they should strive for in working with clients.

Remember the power of the upsell—it’s easier to get more money from existing clients than totally new clients. But for upselling to work, clients need to be getting results—agency Competence—and enjoy working with you—agency Warmth.

You can learn more about Warmth & Competence in The HUMAN Brand, by Chris Malone—former CMO at Aramark and Choice Hotels—and Princeton psychology professor Susan T. Fiske.

Warmth & Competence: Four Combinations

In their research, they found that people evaluate people and brands on two axes: Warmth & Competence. Companies can be high or low Competence, and high or low Warmth.

For instance, if you go to the DMV, you may find the employees are moderately Competent but low on Warmth. In contrast, when I go to my local post office, I’ve found the employees are very friendly and helpful—that is, high Warmth—but when I hold my mail while traveling, they temporarily lose it every time, in a creative new way—that is, low Competence.

Goldman Sachs or Bank of America might be seen as high Competence—they’re good at what they do—but low Warmth—no one really enjoys dealing with either company. They’re aloof.

Brands like Apple, Republic Wireless, and Starbucks are known for being high Warmth and high Competence. They’re good at what they do, and people enjoy interacting with them. The brands have extremely loyal customers.

You Need High Competence AND High Warmth for Better Client Retention

What’s the takeaway for digital marketing agencies? Strive for high Warmth and high Competence in your client service experience.

It’s not enough to just be good at what you do; people have to enjoy working with you, too. For instance, I see agencies do well at competence (e.g., getting deliverables done on time) but then poorly at warmth (e.g., they keep making their client contact look bad in meetings).

Want to improve onboarding and the rest of your client experience? Read The HUMAN Brand and adopt Warmth & Competence as your agency’s client retention strategy—and consider spreading Warmth & Competence to your management style, too. The strategy will help employee retention, too.

Question: Have you applied “Warmth & Competence” at your agency? How did you see it impact client retention?

Image credit: T-shirt design generated via CustomInk.com