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Customer Retention is a mentality, not a program!!!

My HARO (Help a Reporter Out) feed recently included this request (loosely paraphrased): ‘Looking for opinions on when to start a customer retention program.’  My response: “Customer retention is a deep mentality of providing exceptional service and support at EVERY interaction. It starts on the prospecting call.  It is not a program.”

Unfortunately most company retention programs start when someone says they are leaving.  “Sure, let me get you over to the people who can help you close your account.”  This is the retention group, whose role is to ‘save’ the account.  First question: Why is there a separate group?  Second question: Why are you leaving?

Few industries require people to call to say goodbye so you really don’t know if/when a customer leaves unless they are vindictive and just wanted to tell you that they ‘will never do business with you ever again!’ You know those people – they have to have the last word, justified or not.

Customer Retention starts on the very first interaction by your sales people or marketing material, aligning your company’s products or services benefits (not features – understand the difference!) to the customer’s desired outcome.  Here’s the reality folks – Nobody cares what you’re selling.  The most popular radio station remains WIIFM (What’s In It For Me).  Stop selling products, I assure you nobody cares.  Sell results and gain customers for life.

Here is a simple, simple formula for stellar business success:

Find out what customers want, deliver it to them and take the best possible care of them all the time.

Accenture published a research study and among the findings, these two are true indicators of where to focus attention:

  • Over 80% of people who have switched providers felt the company could have done something to retain them with better live or in-person customer service.
  • 45% of consumers say they are willing to pay a higher price for goods and services if it ensured a better customer service experience, particularly if it involves a human interaction. So much for those automated systems….

Mind boggling?  Baffling?  Major new revelation?  NO!  Psychology 101.  People want to be heard, acknowledged and appreciated.  Seems simple enough, right?  Yet so many companies muck it up and have 20%, 30% and higher customer defection rates.  Because so many (way too many) businesses view ‘Customer Service’ as a cost center, a necessary evil, an expense, call it what you want.  Oh, what a tragedy for them!  But not you, gentle reader, You know your Customer Service group is the richest profit center in the company!  Right?

Customer service teams needs redemption – moving from the proverbial basement, re-defining and elevating their importance to the top of the company!  That is mentality.  Your customer service team knows more about your customers than any market research report, focus group or survey results.  Why?  Because they have live, real, authentic conversations with customers every single day, they actually know what is going on; customer preferences, customer responses to programs, likes/dislikes, etc. Yet does your marketing team ever ask the Customer Service team, ‘Hey, what’s going on in the customer’s world?’  Want an indicator of the chasm between leadership and customers? Answer this question:

How often does senior management listen to customer calls, or observe customer/company interactions?

A lot? Sometimes? Never?  Compare your answer to your level of customer service.  Think you have a handle on your customer service?  A study by Lee Resources asked both senior executives and their customers if the company provides excellent customer service.

  • Executives response? 80% said yes
  • Customers response? Just 8% said yes

8%.  Yes, read that again – 8%.  Just eight percent.  ONE TENTH the rate of the executives.  How’s that for a dramatic disconnect between senior executives and reality?

When you actually provide excellent customer service, you are on a path to not only redemption, but also retention.  And profits.  As Henry Ford said,

“A business absolutely devoted to service will have only one worry about profits. They will be embarrassingly large.”

When you accept that Customer Service is THE biggest profit center in the company and adopt the mentality of ‘we’ll take excellent care of you’ at the strategic level of the company, making it a company directive that everyone on staff adopts….. THEN your customers will respond by sticking around to buy from you again and again and again….  Everyone wins!

That is the Customer Retention mentality because it’s not just a program.