7 Laws of Customer Retention Marketing

Change Your Definition of CRM to mean Customer Retention Marketing

I have long struggled with the concept of Customer Relationship Management (CRM), mostly for the simple reason that I fully understand that customers do not want their relationships with an organization “managed.”

This is why the whole notion and philosophy of CRM as customer relationship management is wrong.

In my keynote speech a few years ago at the Services Marketing Conference in Kuala Lumpur, one of my key messages was that marketers and senior management really need to think of CRM as Customer Retention Marketing.

This is what true CRM is all about – retaining customers, or as I like to call it the art of keeping good customers.™

To implement this definition of CRM in your organization, you will need to inculcate the following 7 Laws of Customer Retention Marketing into your culture, processes, and thinking:

  1. The conversion of a prospect to a purchaser is the casting of a potential long-term relationship with a possible customer. A purchaser who buys from you the first time is merely a trial user. A customer is not a true customer until the second time they buy from you. Forget the notions that “the relationship starts with a purchase,” or “you are not closing a sale, you are starting a relationship.” As we have pointed out previously, the relationship starts way back in the information seeking stage of the buying cycle, at least from the customer’s perspective.

The art of keeping good customers means that your entire organization should be geared to ensure that every experience received by a customer (including a first-time purchaser) should result in that customer repeating their future purchases from you whenever you have a product or solution that meets their needs or solves a problem for them.

  1. You do not work for your employer ─ you work for your customers. Sure, someone in the company signs your proverbial paycheck (or authorizes the direct deposit into your account). But those checks and deposits would bounce if it were not for the customers who buy from your organization. When someone asks you “who do you work for?” your reply should be “our customers” or “the customers of (name of organization).”
  2. You do not sell products or services ─you sell solutions that meet the needs, wants, and desires of your customers. As pithy as this sounds, it is something that way too many organizations and workers these days just do not seem to understand.
  3. Customers want relationships with people and organizations they trust, that are committed to them, and with whom they have shared goals. All of us can buy products and services from a vast number of suppliers and outlets. But we choose to have continual relationships, and to repeat our business, with those we trust and with those whom we have shared outcomes.
  4. Employees should be liberated ─ and allowed to be customer champions. Almost all staff want to serve customers well, if only their organizations would let them! Unfortunately many organizations have rules, processes, procedures, and policies that tie the hands of their employees and prevent them from truly serving customers and satisfying their wants, needs, and desires.
  5. Do not have a commitment to customer service ─ have a commitment to customers (and to customer care). We are definitely in the age of the customer. Customers have many choices and options available to them. But they also all share a deficit of sufficient time. Caring about customers means committing to the things customers place high value on ─ flexibility, sufficient knowledge and information, convenience, ability to choose functions relevant to them, customization, and environmental concerns.

And, of course, good service, which in today’s world is now a prerequisite for repeat business as customers will simply not put up with bad service, inconvenience, inflexible policies and procedures, and a lack of options for customization and personalization.

  1. Customer Service staff should be fired ─ and replaced with Customer Satisfaction staff. This is not a matter of semantics. Customer service tends to be either reactive (to a situation) or a follow-up activity (to a complaint).

Customer service, which is problem resolution focused, is usually initiated by the customer, when he or she has a problem. On the other hand, customer satisfaction is proactive and is customer focused.

Customer satisfaction is usually initiated by the organization to improve the quality of the relationship with the customer. The corollary of this rule is that customer service scorecards, measurements, and matrixes should be replaced with indices that measure and monitor customer satisfaction.

In the typical CRM thinking found today, the organization is the center of focus, thinking, and planning. And the measurement tools used are indicators that support managerial bonuses.

In my Customer Retention Marketing model, the customer is the focus and occupies the central platform for all thinking, planning, and strategic focus. The result becomes the optimization of customer-first processes and the continued improvement in the quality of customer interactions.

Your organization will accomplish a great deal more, and be more highly successful, by changing your definition of CRM to Customer Retention Marketing.

 

KEY POINT: change your definition of CRM to mean Customer Retention Marketing.

TAKING ACTION: survey your employees and ask them this open ended question: “what do we sell to customers?” If they give you a long list of products and services it is time to educate them that you are selling solutions, not products and services.

Review the tools and measurements you use to track and monitor customer service. How could these be turned into tools and measurements to track and monitor customer satisfaction?

Prepare an entire issue of your next employee newsletter (or staff memo) on the subject of customer retention marketing, and what the implications are for the organization in terms of customer care, customer satisfaction measurements, liberating of customer contact personnel, changes in policies and procedures, and how you will reward the organization for making the change to customer retention marketing.

 

This article is excerpted from our book The Best of the Monday Morning Marketing Memo, available at Amazon in Kindle and paperback formats.

For more thoughts on customer retention marketing, read our Keeping Good Customers Blog on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Taking Care of Customers

If you don’t take care of your customers, someone else will

I was in Melbourne in 1999 attending a major meeting of the Australian and New Zealand banks that issue MasterCard credit cards and Maestro debit cards.

Mr. Nicholas Utton, Chief Marketing Officer of MasterCard International at that time, had one key message for this audience of senior bankers concerning customers: “if we don’t take care of our customers, someone else will.

That’s worth repeating — and reflecting on: “if we don’t take care of our customers, someone else will.”

And how true that is.

Just think about all the choices and options available to your customers today.

Rare is the organization that finds itself without numerous competitors. Even rarer is the customer without readily available options, choices, or substitute products for the solutions they seek.

To take care of your customers, you need to have a full understanding of their wants, needs, and desires.

I would also suggest that you need to have a corporate-wide attitude that understands a person or an organization is not truly your customer until the second time they buy.

That is right. I recommend you do not consider anyone a customer until the second time they buy from you.

The first time they buy they are merely a trial user. Unless they achieve satisfaction from the purchase and the use of your product or service, they may be unlikely to repeat their business with you.

Hence, taking care of the customer goes beyond the mere sales cycle and includes all post-purchase activities such as use, repair, servicing, customer service, warranties, and trade-in or re-sale.

The best way to take care of your prospects and customers is to tailor or customize your products and service offerings as much as you profitably can.

Treat your customers as individuals ─ with individual needs ─ at all customer touch points and you will be well on your way to developing customer loyalty.

And remember, in the words of MasterCard’s former Chief Marketing Officer, if you don’t take care of your customers, someone else will.

 

KEY POINT: if you don’t take care of your customers, someone else will.

TAKING ACTION: are you fully aware of the experiences customers have with your products? How satisfying are these experiences? Any way to find out?

Where can your product or service offer be customized? How can you create tailored solutions for your very, very important customers?

This article is excerpted from our book The Best of the Monday Morning Marketing Memo, available in paperback and Kindle formats at Amazon.

Make It Easy For Customers To Complain

Customers Who Complain Are Customers Who Care

 Two of the key points from last week’s Monday Morning Marketing Memo are:

1)   complaints will happen because mistakes will happen, and

2)  customers who complain are customers who care.

Therefore, knowing that you are going to get complaints and knowing that such complaints are good for you, it makes sense to have a complaint management strategy in place. Such a complaint management strategy must not only focus on resolving the various customer issues that crop up, but needs to also systematically turn customer complaints into learning opportunities for the entire organization.

The first component of your complaint management strategy is that you should make it easy for customers to complain.

“What?” I can hear many of you saying. “Make it easier for customers to complain, so that we actually get more complaints?”

But that’s exactly what your goal should be ─ to drive more complaints. After all, if you do not hear about the problems your customers are having with your products, services, or staff, then how are you going to go fix these?

Secondly, when a customer has a complaint, and they run into hurdles and barriers trying to voice their complaint to someone, all they do is get angrier and angrier. This results in a small problem developing into a multi-faceted larger one, simply because the customer cannot find a way to channel their concerns, anger, fears, worries, questions, or complaints to your organization in a timely and convenient manner.

This is particularly true when it comes to the information posted on your website. Few things seem to infuriate customers more these days than not being able to find the right contact details for lodging a complaint, or for speaking to someone other than a call center “service rep” on an organization’s website.

Thus, there are two key benefits from making it easy for customers to complain:

1)   The customers do not get angrier and more upset from the additional frustrations of trying to contact your organization.

2)  You have more opportunities to fix initial, small problems before they evolve into larger and harder to resolve ones.

Part of your complaint management strategy needs to emphasize to all employees, especially the first tier and second tier staff who routinely have to deal with 90% of customer complaints, that service recovery starts with how they react to complaints.

Unfortunately, for too many organizations the initial reaction to a customer complaint is either defensive (trying to push the blame back onto the customer) or process driven (having a focus on a speedy resolution so that the frontline service staff can rapidly move onto the next customer complaint).

This approach often has unintended negative consequences, as customers end up feeling that they have been handled in a non-personalized fashion or have been quickly served so that another customer’s situation can take priority. This is not to say that speed and prompt resolutions are not appreciated; however it is important to understand that the manner in which swift results are delivered can be perceived as dehumanizing and robotic.

A good example of this is when an organization’s email autoresponder system sends out the highly depersonalizing “thank you for your inquiry, we will get back to you promptly” message when an email of complaint is sent via the organization’s website.

Please note: an email (or letter) of complaint is not an inquiry. It is an attempt to get a humanized and customized resolution to a situation that your customer finds unpalatable. It should not be responded to in the same manner as an email asking a general product or service question.

Additionally, in the most unfortunate situations, another unintended negative consequence of the focus on speed is that the customer actually walks away feeling unheard and that his or her true, underlining complaint was ignored, overlooked, or not fully understood. The result is that customers feel it is difficult to voice their complaints to the organization, and may end up deciding that it is far easier to take their business elsewhere than to continue dealing with an organization that fails to listen and comprehend.

It is for this reason that I advocate changing “customer service staff” into customer satisfaction staff,” who are then measured on their abilities to deliver complete satisfaction to customers, rather than by quantitative indicators such as the number of calls handled, the number of customers served, and the average time per service transaction.

This is not a matter of semantics, but of a philosophical approach of being fully customer focused and pro-active in the area of customer satisfaction, rather than being reactive and process driven in determining customer service standards.

One interesting thing I have noticed is that customers are more acute listeners and observers when they are angry. In fact, when angered customers notice every little detail about how they are being treated and what steps the organization is taking to settle the dispute. As a result, each and every thing done by someone representing the organization, including outsourced contract staff such as those in call centers, is noted and mentally recorded by upset customers. This is especially true for any attempts to forestall the customer from complaining or to thwart their desires to be fully heard and understood.

Customers willingly play these details back to the next level of management, or to anyone else who will listen ─ including your other customers and prospects ─ at a moment’s notice. This not only lengthens the time it takes to eventually solve the original customer complaint, but it also means the dissatisfactions incurred by the customer while engaged in the settlement process must now also be dealt with. This leads to additional costs to the organization, in terms of both staff hours and the eventual compensation to the customer, as well as an unsatisfying feeling all around for the customer, your staff, and the management personnel involved.

All this could be alleviated, of course, if you simply made it easier for customers to complain in the first place.

One of my personal marketing cornerstones is that preventing customer complaints is better than resolving them. Such prevention, however, must come through quality products, services, procedures, processes, policies, and staff. This does not imply that you should prevent customer complaints from being fully voiced and understood.

When something goes wrong, it is best to hear about it. Only the problems your organization hears and knows about are fixable.

Handling customer complaints properly impacts all current and future customers ─ and starts with processes, procedures, and systems that make it easy for such complaints to be communicated to your organization.

So, make it easy and convenient for your customers to complain. You will be glad you did. For the benefits will be for you and the organization to reap.

 

KEY POINT: make it easy for customers to complain to your organization.

TAKING ACTION: how are customer complaints handled in your organization? Are they processed and handled as quickly and efficiently as possible, and then forgotten? What can be done so that customer complaints are fully voiced and understood?

What steps are needed to turn the efficient handling of complaints into learning opportunities for your organization?

How is customer service monitored and measured in your organization? What does your customer service “scorecard” look like? Does it include measurements for how lessons from the frontline points of customer interaction are circulated to other staff, used in training courses, and incorporated into new employee orientation programs?

 

This article is excerpted from our book The Best of the Monday Morning Marketing Memo, available in Kindle and paperback formats at Amazon.

 

Customer Complaints Are Good

Customers Who Complain Are Customers Who Care

As sure as there are customers for your product, you can be guaranteed that there will be complaints about your products or services.

Why?

Is it impossible for any organization to deliver 100% customer satisfaction and 100% fault-free products and services all the time? In a simple word: yes.

I have yet to come across an organization that does not make the occasional mistake, or the employee who does not commit the odd accidental error or who simply is in a grumpy mood that is reflected onto your customers.

So face it ─ complaints will happen.

And this is good. For complaints are good for you.

One of the worst things customers can do when faced with unsatisfactory service or a poor quality product is to not tell you and leave for the competition. After all, if you do not hear of the problems that cause customers to take their business elsewhere, how can you fix them?

Customer complaints are good for these:

  • Highlight areas that need improvement.
  • Identify procedures that cause customer pain.
  • Reveal information that is lacking, or erroneous, in your communications.
  • Identify staff who need more training or closer supervision.
  • Provide a check on consistency levels.
  • Surface policies that may be outdated.
  • Trigger positive change (if you take the initiative to act on the complaints).
  • Raise staff morale (through positive change).
  • Provide a method of competitive intelligence.
  • Provide bench marking from other industries.
  • Identify customers who care.

That last point is a critical one to ponder. Customers who complain are customers who care!

Sure, customers who complain often want some form of restitution for the inconveniences suffered. But most just want the organization to live up to the promises made, which ought to be the key objective of the selling organization anyway.

So while they care about themselves and having their own satisfaction levels fulfilled, they also care enough about future engagements with the organization to want to help the organization live up to future commitments.

Otherwise, they would simply just walk away and take their business elsewhere (after demanding a refund of whatever money has already been spent on the unsatisfactory product or service).

Whether they are loyal customers, upset customers, wronged customers, disappointed customers, angry customers, right customers, or even wrong customers ─ customers who complain do care. (Okay, maybe not all, but certainly most.)

If your staff attitudes can be shifted so that they collectively and individually view complainers as customers who care, then your organization is in a much better position to learn from such complaints and to implement restorative steps that result in retrieval of departing and departed customers.

Unfortunately, too many organizations treat customer complaints as “sore points” that need to be counted, rectified, and forgotten as soon as the service staff moves on to the next complaining customer. This is why too much of “customer service” these days is reactionary and process driven, with managers and service staff monitored and measured in terms of efficiencies, quickness of response, and the number of complaints “handled” per shift, day, week, or month.

When complaints are handled and tracked this way, true organizational learning and the opportunity to turn complaints into new levels of customer satisfaction through positive change are usually lost. Forever. Or at least until an enlightened new manager takes over the so-called customer service unit.

Lastly, it is important to remember that all complainers have one of two things in common ─ they are all customers or prospects.

Service recovery starts with the way you handle complaints and complainers, a topic that we will discuss in the next Monday Morning Marketing Memo.

Until then, remember that complaints are good. And that, for the most part, people who complain are customers who truly care about your future. Or at least your future with them as your customers.

 

KEY POINT: customers who complain are customers who care.

TAKING ACTION: how are customer complaints handled in your organization? Are they processed and handled as quickly and efficiently as possible, and then forgotten? What steps are needed to turn the efficient handling of customer complaints into learning opportunities for your organization?

How is customer service monitored and measured in your organization? What does your customer service “scorecard” look like? Does it include measurements for how lessons from the frontline are circulated to other staff, used in training courses, and incorporated into new employee orientation programs?

How can lessons from the frontline be turned into learning stories to the benefit of the entire organization and its customers?

 

This article is excerpted from our book The Best of the Monday Morning Marketing Memo, available in paperback and Kindle formats at Amazon.

 

Think Customers

Customers are people. Treat them as customers and people.

How do you call or refer to the people who buy your goods and services? What descriptive names do you use? What terminology do you use to discuss them?

Your pronoun of choice may include passengers, guests, participants, clients, patients, and a whole host of other words.

However, there is only word that should be used ─ customers.

Here is how the choice of descriptive can alter the way you and your colleagues think about your customers:

Passengers sit in airplane seats eating boring meals and attempting to be entertained by movies on small screens.

Customers are flyers with individual needs, wants, and desires whose travel experiences begin from the time the journey is planned to the time they collect their luggage at their final destination.

Δ Δ Δ Δ Δ

Cargo shippers hand over freight that is then stored and transported in the belly of a plane or the hold of a ship.

Customers are the people shipping or receiving the precious (to them) cargo being carried and transported.

Δ Δ Δ Δ Δ

Hotel guests check in, check out, occasionally dine in house or in room, and might return some day.

Customers are individuals away from home looking for comfort, rest, familiarity, recognition, and a reason to return some day.

Δ Δ Δ Δ Δ

Clients sit in offices and have meetings in conference rooms.

Customers are the people who react to your ideas and appreciate the value you add.

Δ Δ Δ Δ Δ

Patients sit patiently in waiting rooms as they are moved from test to test or room to room.

Customers are people scared about their medical conditions and worried for their futures.

Δ Δ Δ Δ Δ

Participants at a conference have paid for their admission and eagerly wait to hear nuggets of brilliance from the speakers.

Customers are individuals with important personal concerns seeking new insights and experiences to help them achieve personal and professional goals.

 

Customers are PEOPLE — treat them humanely and with respect, as they most certainly deserve.

Customers are not “the man in seat 17F,” or “the woman in room 839,” or “the couple at table 14.” And most assuredly, to them, they are also not “seat 17F,” or “room 839”, or “table 14.” Yet, how many times a day do your staff refer to your customers this way (and hence THINK about them this way)?

Customers are “the customer in seat 17F,” and “the customer in room 839,’ and “the customers at table 14” and they deserve to be spoken about and thought about in this way by your staff and colleagues.

Think of your customers as CUSTOMERS. As PEOPLE.

And treat them as CUSTOMERS and PEOPLE.

Think of them, and treat them, as CUSTOMERS and PEOPLE with real and individual needs, wants, and desires. Not as account numbers, participants, account holders, clients, passengers, guests, or patients.

Do this and you will have more customers.

Do this and you will have happier customers.

Do this and you will have repeat customers.

Do this, and your happy and repeat customers will help to ensure a better and more stable future for your organization.

It all starts with how you think about, call, and refer to the people who buy your goods and services.

KEY POINT:  the choice of descriptive can alter the way you and your colleagues think about your customers.

TAKING ACTION:  for the next week, record every descriptive used internally to describe the people who buy your goods and services. In what context are these words used? How do these words reflect the TRUE feelings of your staff towards your customers? How would their thinking change if the word “customer” had been inserted every time another descriptive was used?

For the next week, review every piece of internal and external communication generated. How often are the people who buy your goods and services described as customers? How often are they described as something else? How do these other words reflect the TRUE feelings of the writers and the readers towards your customers? How would their thinking change if the word “customer” had been used every time another descriptive was used?

Go out to your customer points of interaction. What words are your staff and colleagues using IN FRONT OF CUSTOMERS to describe them? Are your customers being called “room 1027” in front of the customer who is in that room? Are your staff saying “the guy on flight 64 wants to move his seat” in front of the customer making this request?

Start an internal movement now to eliminate ALL descriptive names and words used by your organization other than the word CUSTOMER to refer to the people who buy or use your goods and services.

This article is excerpted from my book The Best of the Monday Morning Marketing Memo, available at Amazon in Kindle and paperback formats.

Customer Service Creed

When the customer wins, you also win

The importance of focusing on customer needs, wants, and desires is a key theme in every seminar and keynote speech I give.

I have long advocated that too many businesses are being run in the pursuit of short-term shareholder value (i.e. share price) and not in the pursuit of long-term shareholder value through solving customer problems profitably and from developing long-term customer loyalty.

Now that a significant portion of the global economy is undergoing a slow (or negative) growth phase, the solitary pursuit by senior executives in trying to constantly push the share price higher and higher is coming home to scorch them.

The best way to create long-term shareholder value is to create and keep good customers.

In order to develop strong customer retention strategies, you need to have an organization-wide customer service creed in place.

Here’s a generic Customer Service Creed that you might be able to adapt for your own purposes:

Every employee has customers, either internal or external (or both). Everyone in the organization must walk the talk during every customer point of interaction.

Treat all employees as special, just as you would treat all customers as special. How you treat your staff is mirrored in the way they treat your customers.

Empower employees who are engaged in regular contact with external customers to make decisions. Establish relaxed levels of authority and alternate chain of commands. Not all decisions should, or need to, come to managers. Trust your staff, having given them appropriate guidelines to work within.

Customer service does not end when the customer has paid for the product and taken it home. Customer service must continue after the sale, just as it must come before the sale.

Allow the customer to talk. Look at them. Be interested in them. Summarize what they are saying. Treat each customer as a unique individual with individual needs, wants, and desires and never as someone who is making the same request you have heard before.

To the customer, each individual they interact with is the organization. Eliminate the “we/they” thinking. Success comes when you think of the word “us” when dealing with customers.

It is much easier to create a positive impression than to erase or correct a negative one.

Let the customer win. Then you both win.

Your competition is anyone the customer compares you with.

Reward, recognize, and celebrate your customer service successes. This creates momentum for future success stories.

To win today’s marketing battles, you might want to consider creating and publicizing, both internally and externally, your own Customer Service Creed.

And remember, when the customer wins, you also win!

 

KEY POINT #1:  in order to develop strong customer retention strategies, you need to have an organization-wide customer service creed in place.

KEY POINT #2: when the customer wins, you also win!

TAKING ACTION:  do you treat employees as special? Is how your organization treats its own staff reflected in the ways your staff treat customers?

What impressions of your organization do your customers take away with them after each and EVERY interaction with your organization?

How can you eliminate the “we/they” thinking between your staff and your customers?

This article is partially excerpted from the book The Best of the Monday Morning Marketing Memo, available in paperback and Kindle formats at Amazon.

7 Cs of Customer Retention

Seven Ways to Keep Good Customers

Many companies around the world are recognized by consumers for worldwide excellent service. Companies such as McDonald’s, Singapore Airlines, Federal Express, L.L. Bean, and Citibank are successful because they know exactly what their customers expect and then they satisfy these customer expectations (most of the time).

At McDonald’s, every employee ─ in every country around the world ─ knows the company stands for quality, service, cleanliness, and value. Every McDonald’s employee also knows exactly what each of these elements means in terms of HOW to do business with McDonald’s customers.

At Citibank, the service quality goal is to set and consistently meet service performance standards that satisfy the customer and profit the bank. In other words, at Citibank the customer is the final judge of service and the bank invests an inordinate amount of money each year in tracking its customer satisfaction levels.

While all customers are unique, and use different values to make purchasing decisions, there are seven common customer expectations for customer service that have basically become the MINIMUM LEVEL that today’s customers DEMAND be met by all the organizations from which they buy. Because these are the minimum requirements, they are also the ones that must be met if you are to achieve any significant level of customer retention.

The 7 Cs of Customer Retention are:

Caring Attitude ─ employees that are caring, friendly, helpful, care/show empathy, value me as a customer, apologizes for company errors.

Customized Practices ─ flexibility in applying most, if not all, company policies, simple documentation, forms that are easy to understand and use, suspension of disputed charges, willingness to extend additional services, ability of the organization at all key contact points to know and understand the customer’s relationship with us.

Competent CCPs ─ having customer contact personnel who communicate well and accurately, take action, meet commitments, keep customers constantly informed of a situation’s status, and who are fully aware of all the organization’s products, services, procedures, and policies.

Call/Visit Once ─ the customer’s initial contact person in your organization handles the problem, or gets it resolved. The CCP or contact person makes necessary decisions and the customer only needs to explain the problem once (even if moved to another service provider). All contacts know the customer’s account status, as well as the nature of the problem under resolution.

Convenient Access ─ your operating hours of stores, branches, outlets, offices, and call centers are structured with the needs of customers in mind. Your access numbers are easy to get through, are answered promptly, and the length of time on hold and the number of transfers internally before the problem is resolved are kept to a minimum. Your website is easy to understand, navigate, use and the ordering process is simple and caters for international orders (if you are willing to ship goods and products outside your home country).

Compressed Cycle Times ─ customers receive an immediate response to enquiries, products and services meet customers’ timing, adjustments or changes (such as address changes) are made before the next billing or statement cycle, and your organization provides consistently quick turnaround (especially for problem solving).

Committed Follow Through ─ the CCP and/or customer’s contact person commits to what/when/how, follows-up to confirm action, checks on satisfaction level, and your organization takes corrective action to prevent reoccurrence of an error or problem.

These 7 Cs are the minimum requirements your customers have. And if you do not deliver well against these criteria, then you cannot expect to have high levels of customer satisfaction, customer loyalty, or customer retention.

Last week we gave you a checklist of items that you can use in monitoring your business unit’s service delivery on these seven customer expectations. As several other successful, customer-focused organizations have done, please put this checklist to good use and you will be well on your way to achieving high levels of customer retention, or what I like to call the art of keeping good customers.™

 

KEY POINT: there are seven common customer expectations for customer service that have basically become the MINIMUM LEVEL that today’s customers DEMAND be met by the organizations from which they buy from.

TAKING ACTION: do all your customer contact personnel have caring, friendly attitudes? Do they exhibit empathy towards customers at all times? How could this be improved?

How flexible are your company policies? Could they be made more flexible? Would greater flexibility be appreciated by your customers?

How simple and easy-to-use is your documentation? How can this be made more simple or easier to use?

When was the last time you asked your customers these same questions?

This article is excerpted from the book The Best of the Monday Morning Marketing Memo, which is available at Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats.

Nobody Noticed

The Little Things Matter in Customer Service

A few years ago, when living in Australia, I flew from Melbourne to Singapore. Just another day, another international journey.

Except that it was not just another day. It was my birthday. And nobody noticed!

As a result, the airline and the hotel that I encountered that day missed a huge opportunity to provide this customer with an extraordinary experience.

Instead, I only received their “ordinary good, everyday customer experience.” And yet, there was really no excuse for this.

While checking in for my flight, the customer service person at the counter used my passport details to create the “Express Lane” immigration card that they give out to all Business and First Class customers. That card has my birth date details.

This airline is one of my two favorites, and I had already attained Platinum Level status in their frequent flyer program, because of my loyalty and the number of long-haul trips I had made that year between Australia and Asia. Their main competitor on the Australia to Asia sector sent me a birthday card that arrived two days before this journey. But I did not receive anything from this particular carrier.

Upon arrival in Singapore I proceed to the well-established, five-star Asian hotel chain where the three-day workshop I was conducting was being held. This time the lady at the check-in counter took my passport and completed the various boxes on the hotel’s registration card. I noticed that she properly recorded both my passport details and my date of birth. Again, there was no correlation to entry of the data and the fact that it coincided with that particular date.

In reflecting upon this, I see that the hotel staff had been well trained to fill in forms quickly and efficiently. But they took no notice of the information that was being recorded. I was just another customer to be moved as quickly as possible from the check-in desk to the hotel room.

Now I did not expect birthday cakes and birthday songs from either of these organizations.

I did think, however, that they would have had systems in place so that a personal greeting would have been proffered. On the airline, the Chief Cabin Officer always walks around, introduces himself/herself, and personally welcomes aboard their FFP customers. And while this did take place during the flight, I would have been extremely pleased had he quietly said, “Oh, Mr. Howard, I see that today is your birthday. Happy Birthday from all of us at XYZ Airlines.” Instead, he only checked to see if I needed an immigration form for arrival into Singapore.

The same goes for the hotel. Why don’t they have a system in place for the General Manager or the Resident Manager to send a short birthday note to the rooms of the guests who are traveling away from home on their special day?  I am not suggesting that they need to send flowers or a bottle of wine, but just a personal note (or even better a phone call) would go a long way in telling the guest that they are not just another customer in residence on a typical day.

There was nothing to fault in the normal service delivered by either of these two service providers. Both were efficient, friendly, and up to standard.

On any other day, the service delivery would have been proper and sufficient.

But this was not any other day. It was my birthday.

And hence the opportunity for an extra-ordinary customer experience was missed. By both.

KEY POINT:  a customer’s birthday is a great opportunity to provide an extra-ordinary level of personal attention and/or service.

TAKING ACTION:  are you capturing data about customers that could be put to better use?

Are your people real good at completing forms, yet taking no notice of the information being collected? How can you put to better use the information on customers you collect?

What important events in your customers’ lives are you overlooking?

How can you make a special day in your customer’s life even more special?

This article is partially excerpted from the book The Best of the Monday Morning Marketing Memo, which is available at Amazon in Kindle and paperback formats.

Marketing Words of Wisdom on Customer Retention

Keeping Good Customers

The world in which marketing takes place has changed, and continues to change at a rapid pace.

Customers, customer needs, and the motivations for making purchasing decisions are also changing. Often at an equally rapid pace.

Plus, the natural loyalty of customers is becoming a thing of the past, not just because customers have become more fickle but also because a large majority of organizations do not exhibit tendencies that deserve customer loyalty.

Here are three pieces of advice from our new book Marketing Words of Wisdom that I regularly give to clients on how to build customer loyalty and keep good customers:

Rational marketing ignores half a customer’s brain.

Customers buy for both rational and emotional reasons. Persuade by reason, motivate through emotion.

This is the Yin and Yang of marketing.

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The secret to Customer Retention Marketing is TLC (think like customers).

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A person or business is not your customer until the second time they buy. The first time they purchase they are merely a trial user.

 These are three steps that any business — particularly smaller businesses and start-ups — can put to immediate use to build a loyal customer base and convert trial users into good customers.

For more of my thoughts on how to use marketing as a business driver, Marketing Words of Wisdom is available at Amazon in both paperback ($5.88) and Kindle ($2.99) formats

Note: Marketing Words of Wisdom will be specially priced at just $0.99 in Kindle on July 28 – August 1.

The Customer is (STILL) King.

We live in a world of change. As a matter of fact, the rate of change today is faster, and affects a larger portion of the earth’s population, than at any other time in history. And, as some pundits like to repeat, “the only thing constant in our lives is change.”

Tomorrow’s world will require marketing-driven approaches to generate the level of success known as market leadership. My personal market-driven philosophy is “if it touches the customer, it’s a marketing issue.™” 

Anything that touches your customers….that impacts your customers or your prospects….should be considered a marketing issue for your entire organization.

This marketing philosophy has led me to develop five customer-driven marketing strategies. Let me share the first one with you.

I call it the golden rule of marketing: the customer is king.

No, the customer is not always right. But the customer is still the customer, at all times. And as marketers and business leaders, it is imperative that we fully understand and appreciate the needs of each and every one of our customers.

Thus, it is mandatory that everyone in the organization who has contact with customers and prospects be taught how to investigate customer wants and needs. And, they need to be able to fully understand and appreciate these needs.

Then, your company needs to determine how it can best serve the needs of these customers ….. profitably, efficiently, and consistently.

Bear in mind, of course, that it will be our customers who are the judges of how well our organizations satisfy their requirements. Our internal measures don’t really matter, unless we are using the same measurement yardsticks as our customers.

I recall when I first joined a major international retail bank. On the first week on the job I was invited to a party, in celebration of the fact that the bank had just exceeded its own goals on the issuance of ATM cards to new account holders. The bank had achieved a 94% level of issuing these cards within seven days of new account openings for the previous month. It was the first time the team had surpassed the goal of 92%.

“Wonderful,” I thought. “We are willing to set a goal that leaves 8% of our customers less than satisfied.”  However, not wanting to damper the spirits of the team, I kept my initial thoughts to myself.

Later I enquired whether we had ever asked customers if seven days was satisfactory in their minds. Unfortunately, the reply I got was “no.”  Hence, I made sure that in our next regular customer satisfaction survey we included a question on “how many days should it take for you to receive your ATM card after you open up a new account with us?”

As I recall, something like 85% of the respondents selected either three days or four days in response to this question. Hence, not only were we will to live with a statistical service measurement that said it was okay to not satisfy 8% of our new customers….we didn’t have a clue (until the research findings) that in fact we were actually disappointing the large majority of customers by using a measurement criteria that was not in tune with their own thinking.

Please remember, while the customer may not always be right, he or she is still the customer.

And in their hands lie the future fate of your businesses.

Key Point: our customers are the judges of how well our organizations satisfy their requirements. Internal measures don’t really matter, unless we are using the same measurement yardsticks as our customers and have a full understanding of customer expectations on service delivery.

Taking Action: ask your senior managers to brainstorm and develop a list of the things your organization tracks in relationship to customer satisfaction.

When was the last time you checked these measurement yardsticks against the requirements of your customers?  If it’s been awhile, you should make it a high priority to conduct a Customer Satisfaction Survey with your existing clients and ask them how you’re doing in relationship to their needs.

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