Planning a Strong Account Management Framework for 2022
In January, language service providers are often busy planning the year ahead. This year, we observed that many are putting special emphasis on improving their client care function. We’ve been busy holding online workshops with LSPs to help them refine their approach. Here’s an overview of the core concepts we typically discuss during these sessions.
Why Invest in Account Management?
When salespeople land a new client, the relationship follows a natural progression and spend increases over time. That is, unless the customer’s needs aren’t met, in which case the client may bring up issues or silently leave to work with another provider.
Account management guides buyers along this natural curve to ensure that they don’t get lost along the way. At the same time, it allows LSPs to maximize the opportunities at each stage. By receiving regular attention, customers transition from the precarious new client status to the more stable existing client stage. The customer care team can then nurture the client and leverage the relationship to increase the account size beyond what it would be without an extra push. Account management also enhances retention and prevents loss of revenue by maintaining or even increasing client satisfaction through early discovery of issues which can then be addressed and resolved in a timely fashion.
Yet, as you do your planning, you should not limit account management to just its function of retaining and growing accounts. It’s also about increasing profitability by moving more quickly into the profitable phase of the relationship by optimizing processes to make the relationship a win-win. Simply said, account management helps you capitalize on the revenue you’ve already brought in.
Action for you: Create a list of expectations for your account management function –whether the role is held by project managers, salespeople, or a dedicated account management team.
How to Calibrate the Degree of Extra Care
At most companies, account management targets specific high-value customers rather than focusing across the board on all clients. LSPs use various criteria – or combinations of criteria – to identify the most promising accounts to nurture. We found in past research that LSPs favor revenue as the measure they use to target which clients get the most attention. The criterion may be a simple revenue threshold that the client meets, a confirmed potential for more sales with that account, or the ranking of the client in terms of importance to the LSP. LSPs that closely oversee the account management effort recognize the value of monitoring the profitability of the account, as well as the time spent on client care.
Account status is another selection criterion. Even agencies without a formal customer care program regularly track clients that start reducing their orders. Unless the slow period is seasonal, the client is often already lost by the time the LSP identifies the problem. An account management program can alert the LSP to potential relationship-ending issues before this drop in business occurs.
Other account selection techniques are more subjective and rely on customer needs, satisfaction levels, or client maturity. Accounts with technology implementation requirements also customarily receive additional attention.
In our workshops, we typically go over two models to formalize how to balance giving too much or too little attention to clients – one is simple, based on only two elements (the importance of the client’s revenue to your overall revenue and the client’s untapped potential) and one is built on a more complex set of criteria.
Action for you: Decide on the criteria you want to use to create “buckets” of clients and sort your client list accordingly.
How to Build Care Packages
For each bucket of clients that you have created, you need to define your typical approach, meaning all the activities you intend to use to service that group. Cover the whole range from set up when onboarding new clients to expected involvement at the project level, account review activity, and any kind of technology set up. It also helps to think about sales and marketing activities that you expect to support these clients. As you build the list, review each group of clients and validate that you are not missing something important.
LSPs frequently only think about their premium or strategic accounts and don’t define the care package for their more basic or transactional accounts. Yet, defining the degree of service for each group is useful to establish baseline expectations for account managers. Without this advanced planning, it is too easy to deliver inconsistent results or completely neglect some clients.
Action for you: Define your typical care package for each bucket of clients you’ve created.
The Client-LSP Journey
As LSPs strive to guide their customers to more stable and profitable relationships, they must account for the evolving relationship between client and LSP. The goal of buyers and the goal of LSPs at each progressive stage is different and requires different touches to create a sense of alignment.
This journey to become a trusted partner can take several years. Your goal is to help clients move through the buyer life cycle to reach the trusted partner level. With a formal account management program in place, you can accomplish this more easily as your customers gain confidence in your translation quality and service levels more quickly.
Action for you: Position yourself for success at each stage of the journey by planning the activities that will increase your chances of moving the relationship forward.
Tactics to Upsell and Cross-Sell
To upsell is to sell a more expensive version of the same service – think transcreation instead of plain translation. To cross-sell is to sell services in addition to the ones being requested – like, “Would you like desktop publishing with that?” You need to systematically penetrate the buyer’s organization to find new opportunities.
A variety of techniques exist to upsell and cross-sell accounts. It often helps to rely on data to make the case for change. For example, we have seen some LSPs use the Global CX Calculator that we developed to demonstrate to clients that lack of local-language support leads to large drop-offs in intent to purchase at each stage of the customer journey. Note that the tool is free to use and a great resource to use on the fly to get into a deeper conversation with clients during in-person or virtual meetings.
Action for you: Develop a plan for each strategic account with how you intend to maximize spend and the arguments you will use to achieve this.
If you do everything well, your account management efforts will enable you to move from regular vendor to trusted partner status. Getting to the trusted partner status is earned by consistently being responsive and helpful and through a disciplined approach to client care. Our training workshops can be a great way to energize teams so they achieve their best in 2022.
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