How to Calculate (and Improve) Your Customer Retention Rate

By Chelsea Williams
Senior Copywriter
Apr 16 2024 read

It’s a worthy goal to grow your customer base, but many people — even seasoned business owners — overlook the value of holding onto the clients they already have.

The people who have reached into their pockets and handed you their hard-earned money before are the most likely to do so in the future. On average, 65% of new business comes from existing customers.

Read on to learn how to determine your customer retention rate and, from there, vital strategies to get your total number of customers up.

How to Find Your Customer Retention Rate

Your customer retention rate represents the number of paying customers who have stayed active after a given period of time. It can be broken down as follows:

The average customer retention rate in professional services is 84%.

This high rate is not to be taken for granted, though. Establishing strong connections with your clients takes work, and holding onto them over time requires dedication and a clear strategy.

Also, keep in mind that customer retention rates vary across industries.

Because client relationships are at the heart of professional services, the percentage of customers who stay loyal tends to be higher than the average for other industries.

How to Improve Your Customer Retention Rate

There is always room for improvement when it comes to keeping your customers with you for the long haul. Here are some effective, proven strategies for achieving a high retention rate:

Aim to Understand Your Customer Base

The first step in boosting your retention is to truly grasp the ins and outs of the customer experience. Knowing what they need can help you deliver more of that and feel confident that it will be well-received.

Qualitative Answers

When researching existing clients, it’s best to use both qualitative and quantitative barometers. Go with qualitative first, and use your most accessible resources: your internal client experts.

Whether those are account managers, support techs or customer success specialists, they’re the people who interact with your existing clients most often. Thus, they should’ve already gathered valuable insights from the natural conversations they have every day.

Next, go directly to the source: your clients themselves. A survey or focus group works well. Make a list of essential questions tailored to your business and leave the answers open-ended.

Here are some core questions for helpful customer feedback:

  • What problems drove you to seek out our services?
  • How are our services addressing those problems?
  • Are there any positive or negative outcomes you didn’t expect?
  • What do you need from us that you’re not currently getting?
  • Can you share your top two goals for the next year? Two years?

You don’t have to have a stellar participation rate for surveys like these to be helpful. They can give you immediate clues on how to prioritize client requests. Then, reaching out to one or two respondents to have deeper conversations can provide clarity on each question.

Quantitative Data

For quantitative answers, it’s easiest to pinpoint the important metrics — in addition to the customer retention rate — that tell you the most about customer behavior. While these will vary based on your industry and service range, here are a few that apply to many businesses:

  • Customer churn rate: [Number of clients at the beginning of a time period minus number of clients at the end of that time period] divided by number of clients at the beginning 
  • Customer lifetime value (CLV): Average sale value x average number of transactions per customer x profit margin
  • Renewal or reactivation rate: Number of clients who renew their contracts in a given time period divided by the number of clients who were up for renewal

Pro Tip: Your CLTV should ideally be higher than your customer acquisition cost (CAC), or how much you pay to acquire a single new customer, by at least a factor of 3. This ensures that your investment in increasing your number of new customers will pay off.


Use Emails and A Client Portal for Frequent Touches

There’s a fine line between not talking to clients enough and overwhelming them with unnecessary communication.

You should be reaching out to your clients regularly, but the method by which you choose to do so matters. Too many phone calls or emails can be disruptive. Requiring that they log in to multiple accounts to review or approve work could also be too much.

The right mix will likely be some combination of automated email campaigns and a convenient client portal. Let’s discuss how each medium can contribute to more effective client communication:

Using Email to Boost Customer Retention

client retention by email

Email is still one of the best ways to reach people, primarily if your client base consists of business professionals. 

The body of a client outreach email doesn’t have to be complex or take a lot of time to write. Sometimes, a short check-in can go a long way in making people feel like you haven’t forgotten about them.

As long as you’re careful about your tone and ensure that clients aren’t receiving sales-y emails too often, you can keep this mode of communication at the forefront of a customer retention strategy.  

Client Portal

A client portal is a hands-off way to give them visibility over the work your team is doing, as well as some control over how frequently they check on the progress of their projects.

Many professional services clients don’t just appreciate this kind of transparency — they expect it.

The best client portals offer:

  • Interactive document review
  • Secure file storage
  • Customizable permissions
  • A way to submit requests

Moreover, having a client portal attached to your work management platform, rather than as a standalone tool, can save your team loads of time.


Automating client communication is easy with Accelo — a work management platform built for service businesses. Book a demo and get ready to up your client retention without the risk of lowering team productivity.


Understand How Tangible Actions Have A Direct Impact

Many product-based businesses improve retention with a customer loyalty program. These can work well for retail and online shopping, especially when they involve gamification. But apps and punchcards aren’t quite as applicable to a service business.

Instead, a technique to maximize customer retention should revolve around interactions — both quality and frequency. 

It may be overwhelming to think about everything that’s required to keep your customer base from shrinking, but there’s good news:

A tech platform can act as your client retention partner. And we’re not talking about just a customer relationship management solution.

With an end-to-end client work management platform like Accelo, you can easily provide phenomenal customer satisfaction.

Below are the six core areas of customer relationships and how Accelo can help with them:


This is a new client's first chance to interact with your team. Even if you’re not thinking about their contract recurring just yet, it’s critical to set the stage for a long-term relationship.

Establish an organized onboarding protocol, make a real effort to discover what new clients want and train your team to properly manage customer expectations.

With Accelo, you can create custom quotes, give prospects the ability to accept them via a client portal and turn them into projects with pre-assigned tasks in one click.

Project Execution

Project work may be performed internally, but that doesn’t mean it’s invisible to your clients. Progress should be accurately reflected externally, and you should never avoid a client’s request for an update.

Give your team the tools to keep projects efficient and prevent scope creep while maintaining open communication with clients.

Using Accelo, you can get your project management on track with clear task assignments and auto-scheduling based on team availability. Set up automatic notifications when dependent tasks are completed so nothing goes overlooked.


How you deliver your work matters.

It’s not just about visual presentation — clients will also notice your team’s thoughtfulness. Just as branding matters in marketing, using little touches to ensure clients feel they’re getting a unique service is critical to effectively transferring deliverables.

In Accelo, share documents with clients via a secure portal, and avoid duplicate communication by referencing the Activity Stream.

Customer Support

If you excel at all of the above, you’ll hopefully be able to avoid excess customer issues. Regardless of how big or small their requests are, your response will impact your client’s opinion of your business.

One way to handle ongoing requests is to implement SLAs during the contract signing phase.

Harnessing the power of Accelo, you can collect requests via a shared email inbox. Give your team full ticketing capabilities to improve response time and alignment on client history.


No matter how great your service is, customers need to be able to measure its impact. Thus, having access to high-quality data that you can easily share with clients is crucial. Ideally, reports will auto-generate as your projects and tasks are completed.

That’s all done with ease using Accelo.

Access forecasted revenue, actual vs. estimated time and budget usage and billable vs. non-billable hours at a glance. Review your profitability dashboard before making key decisions about ongoing client relationships.


When you’re providing a service that meets customer needs in a way they can’t replicate themselves, pricing is often a non-issue.

If you provide the value you promise, they’ll pay for it. However, the manner in which you bill can become a reason clients leave. It’s essential to send detailed invoices during predictable time frames, avoid surprises and be as transparent as possible about charges.

With Accelo, simply:

  • Automatically bill clients in bulk with accurate, detailed invoices that reflect all work completed in the given period.
  • Manage retainers without missing a beat using templates and recurring tasks.
  • Roll over additional time and budget.

The 4 Smartest Moves That Make Clients Want to Stay

As you know, there’s no such thing as a quick win in professional services. 

However, four meaningful gestures can send a powerful message to your clients:

1. Provide Educational Content

It’s common to think the content journey stops once you’ve closed a sale, but your existing customers still have much to learn — not just about your service or business, but about timely solutions to their problems.

Be their go-to source of trusted information!

2. Offer Flexible Retainer Periods

Being too rigid about the way you manage recurring work can turn clients away. In some industries and for certain clients, monthly retainers might make sense. For others, committing to a quarter or year at a time is more desirable.

3. Have Real Conversations

woman having conversation with client over video conferencing

Never turn down an opportunity to get to know your current clients better, even if it’s via an unplanned interaction.

In addition to sending surveys, impromptu conversations can spark your creativity and motivate you to customize your offerings or develop new services.

4. Reward Loyal Customers

People love to be recognized — especially knowing they got free stuff that’s not handed out to just anyone.

Show repeat customers you appreciate their loyalty with a card, an exclusive offer or some marketing swag.

Bonus: You’ll be creating brand evangelists if you can get clients to use custom pens or wear branded T-shirts.

Accelo’s clients are loyal! Read why one structural engineering firm has used our platform to manage its client work for nine years.


To keep your customers coming back again and again and keep your bottom line looking good, you need to keep communication running smoothly. Schedule a demo to see how Accelo can help with streamlining your processes!


About the Author


Chelsea Williams is Senior Copywriter at Accelo, where she shares unique insights with service professionals and tells user stories via blogs, eBooks, industry reports and more. She has over 15 years of B2B and B2C writing experience — primarily in tech, sales, education and healthcare. Chelsea is an AWAI-certified Master Copywriter trained in brand storytelling and microcopy.

Try Accelo for 7 Days
Fast and easy setup No credit card required
Get Started Now
Schedule a Live Demo
Tailored to your business All questions answered
Request a Time
Accelo uses cookies to give you the best possible experience - by clicking 'Continue' you agree to our use of cookies. Refer to our Privacy Policy for details. Continue