While many companies will invest millions in sales and marketing, they will throw pennies at customer retention. Considering that increasing customer retention by a small percentage can increase profits dramatically, why would any company not invest more in long term retention? Because it’s hard. To put it simply, customer retention is an effort that requires a collaborative and coordinated effort across all departments. It is a result of a well-run system, not an initiative. The bottom line, though, is that the only way for a company to survive in the long term is to focus on customer retention. That means examining the 4 key components that contribute to your customer experience.
Essentially, this is what your customers are purchasing. It may be a software product, a physical product, or a service offering. It is the reason customers searched for you in the first place and it represents the problem they need you to solve. Investing in the success of your customers is an investment in your own growth. A product that works is the minimum barrier to entry. Does that mean it needs to be perfect? No, but you should be constantly listening to your customers to enhance features they want, eliminate bugs and usability issues, and most importantly, making sure your product is solving their problem.
What are the all the touchpoints that make up a customer’s experience with you? They can range from onboarding to account maintenance, ordering, billing, customer service, etc. Every interaction a customer has with you is either positive or negative and automated processes are behind many of those interactions. Ensuring those processes are robust can make the difference between a seamless or frustrating experience for your customers. Keep in mind that a bad repeatable process means every single customer at that touchpoint is having a poor experience…and when a process is automated, it is easy to be unaware that it is even happening. Good process design and frequent experience audits are your friend.
Policies are a reflection of the values of your business. Are they sending the message you want to send? Do your employees have flexibility in helping customers or are their hands tied behind their back by rigid policies? Do you have policies that you tend to hide in tiny print because you know your customers would be unhappy with them? Policies are often trying to balance customer service with fiscal responsibility. The goal is usually to allow you to take good care of your customers while protecting you from people trying to take advantage of you. You should constantly be evaluating your policies to ensure they are helping you (and your customers) instead of hurting you.
No matter how automated or technology-centric your business may be, it is made up of people. The values your company stands for and the values it hires for and rewards are what will shape the quality of your product, processes, and policies. If you respect and engage your employees, that will show in your results, just as respecting your customers will. I personally think it’s impossible to be a successful customer-centric company without being employee-centric as well. Ultimately, they are about being focused on and empathetic toward people. Not only do employees who feel valued treat customers better, but they are also more creative, produce higher quality work, and are willing to go above and beyond to make your company successful.
Customer retention is not a department…it is a result.