“Customer retention needs to be embedded in the marrow of your organisation”. This is my favourite line from Paul Gravett‘s article entitled ‘trickle or torrent: how successful is your customer retention?’. The article explains how an organisation can (and must) boost its customer retention. While Gravett was writing for the arts sector his message is relevant to other sectors too.
Customer retention isn’t just the marketing department’s problem
What does embedding retention in the marrow of your organisation mean? It means customer retention must been seen as everyone’s job. As a result everyone in your organisation needs to be listening to, understanding and communicating with customers. This isn’t easy of course, but when it’s done well it can help organisations stand head and shoulders above their competitors. So when customers give feedback two things need to happen.
Firstly, the feedback needs to be responded to in the moment, as often customers just want to feel they’ve been heard. The immediate response requires front line staff to be empowered to resolve customer problems, and also sufficiently engaged to want to make a difference for each customer.
Secondly it needs to be captured so it can be responded to across the organisation. Companies like British Airways are using sms-based surveys to help them capture feedback quickly and in a consistent format. However this approach can start to look like it’s being done for the companies benefit rather than the customer’s when ‘how was your flight’ surveys are sent out before a delayed plane has left or when particularly high or low scores are met with the same automated silence.
Taking a proactive approach to customer retention
Unfortunately for customers in general, this feedback then seems to get lost. The moment has passed and the customer has been ‘saved’. Staff move on to the next customer and customer’s move on to experience the same problems again. But what happens when another customer says the same thing? And then another, and another? This isn’t about creating and analysing a ‘big data’ source, and neither is it about looking for statistically significant changes. Its about being flexible enough to spot a common theme in customer comments, and spotting it early enough to address the underlying cause.
So whether it’s praise or a complaint your customers want to share with you, it needs to be captured and shared across the organisation. Creating feedback loops that help your organisation to listen to, understand and respond to what your customer are telling you, can become the nerve centre of great customer retention.
Using the same insight to monitor wider business performance
Feedback loops don’t just help with improving customer retention. They can also provide valuable insight about how well your organisation is executing its plan. Feedback can be a lead indicator for how new partners are delivering on your brand promise, how engaged staff are with promoting a new product and how well customers are responding to your communications and marketing. But these indicators, and many more like them, are only useful if managers across the organisation are tuned into them. Proactively encouraging, and then consistently capturing, customer feedback is a big part of helping an organisation to become more nimble.
So how are you ensuring your managers are fully tuned in to what your customers are trying to tell you?