• Speak English. Jargon is another concern for clients. Whether you’re an architect, engineer, environmental consultant or contractor, most clients don’t like “technicalese.” Rather than being impressed, they’re often confused. And this language can cause them worry over how you‘ll come across to their leaders, partners and external constituencies should there be a public approval process. The bottom line: communicate directly and crisply and be mindful of your audience, their ultimate objectives and how they define success.

• It’s the project manager, not the firm. I hear time and time again in client interviews that clients are loyal to their PM and the project team, not necessarily the firm. Perhaps this is a no-brainer in the professional services arena, but it provides significant cause for pause. The upshot of this is that employee training, development and retention leads to client retention. The bottom line: most clients will follow a stellar PM when that PM leaves your firm for a competitor.

• Consider tracking your Net Promoter Score (NPS).  Popularized by Fred Reichheld’s book, “The Ultimate Question: Driving Good Profits and True Growth,” the NPS is a simple measure of client satisfaction and loyalty. Using a 1 to 10 scale, the metric asks,

“How likely are you to refer Firm A to your peers?” Detractors are those respondents rating their likelihood as 6 or less; promoters rate their likelihood as 9 or 10 (those selecting 7 or 8 are considered neutral). Several firms I work with track this metric yearly based on independent (and other) client assessment tools, so they always know where they stand with their clients.

When it comes to client satisfaction, one of my own clients says it best: “We treat the opportunity to identify problems as ‘gold.’ Being able to fix these problems before clients go elsewhere is invaluable.”

Imagine cultivating that culture in your firm. How many clients would you avoid losing?

Rich Friedman, president of Friedman and Partners, Wayland, Mass., is an A/E/C client and communications consultant. He can be reached at 508-276-1101 or rich@friedmanpartners.com.