Published - July 2008

By Dave Jakielo

Where, Oh Where, Have My Clients Gone?
You’ve Got That Lonesome Feeling

The billing industry is more volatile today than I have seen in many years. Good companies that have been providing excellent service to long-time customers are losing some of those customers. And if a company hasn’t been growing and has not positioned itself so that no one customer makes up more than ten percent of the firms total revenue, a loss of a large customer can have a devastating impact.

What causing clients to leave a company that has been providing excellent service? Some of the factors that I have encountered with some of my clients are as follows:

  • Practices are jumping on the electronic medical record (EMR) bandwagon and purchasing systems from vendors who are telling the practices that the system includes a billing module that is so easy to use that you no longer need a billing company.
  • Due to economic pressures, practices are merging with one another to increase market share and reduce overhead costs, which can be achieved if the merger is handled properly.
  • Believe it or not hospitals are still buying physician practices. When will they ever learn? Buying a successful practice that has been built by a group of independent physicians usually leads to disaster for both the hospital and the practice. What both sides seem to miss in the transaction is that “independent physicians” who have been calling their own shots for many years rarely make good employees.
  • Younger partners in the practice attend a convention and meet a new billing vendor. Wanting to put their own footprint on the practice, they convince the other doctors that it is time for a change in billing vendors.

Losing a client is inevitable because we all know that nothing last forever. When we fail to admit to ourselves that eventually there will be attrition in our firms, we are on the path to self destruction, especially if we do not have any replacement candidates in the pipeline.

However, numerous actions can be taken to ensure you don’t find yourself in a situation where you have to tell some of your long time and very loyal employees that you can no longer keep them employed. Remember, losing a large client may mean your bonus is smaller this year; when you layoff employees, it may be devastating to them and their families’ economic welfare.

So what steps can you take to protect your firm from suffering a crushing blow when you lose a client?

  • Position your client base so that no one client is more than 10 percent of your total revenue.
  • Devote a minimum of 20 percent of your time to marketing and build your pipeline of prospects. Keep in mind that, on average, you will close about 10 to 20 percent of the prospects in your pipeline, so if you want to add one to two new clients per year, there should be 10 to 20 prospects in your pipeline.
  • Make a list of the top 10 prospects that you would like to turn into clients and concentrate your marketing efforts on those prospects. You don’t have the time or money to try to land every possible prospect, but you definitely have the ability to concentrate on 10.
  • Never assume that your current clients know that you are looking for additional business. Always ask them after every interaction, “Is there anyone else you know whom I should be talking to about my services?” Someone once told me that when he asked a client that question, the client responded, “I don’t want you to grow because that means you’ll spend less time on my account.” If you have a client with that attitude, I highly recommend you “fire” him immediately. He is probably telling the rest of the marketplace that your service is terrible so that you don’t grow.

Lastly, remember that every contact with every person is a marketing opportunity; make sure you take advantage of it. And keep in mind that you don’t necessarily need to be out “networking” all the time—but if you aren’t, eventually you’ll be “not working.”

Dave Jakielo, CHBME, is an international speaker, consultant, executive coach, and author and is president of Seminars & Consulting. Dave is past president of Healthcare Billing and Management Association and the National Speakers Association Pittsburgh Chapter. Sign up for his FREE weekly Success Tips at Dave can be reached via email; phone 412/921-0976.

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