Business leaders often try to attack customer attrition through short-term, short-sighted retention tactics (i.e. campaign-of-the-month or this Quarter’s service initiative …) without the commitment to discover root cause, improve customer interactions or change “customer-hostile” behaviors. Companies that take the time to know their customers, build trusting relationships and focus on delivering exceptional value … achieve high levels of customer loyalty and advocacy. Retention (or Loyalty) is earned through long-term customer commitment not through short-term business tactics.
Often, because of short-term market and corporate expectations, leaders are pressured into short-term approaches to fill revenue and profit gaps. These pressures can lead to behaviors that exploit current customer relationships through price increases or service limitations that can lead to dissatisfaction and attrition. These short-sighted behaviors create a deadly spiral that is difficult for companies to break with short-term attrition or retention efforts. Leaders need to be bold enough to break these spirals by establishing a customer-oriented culture. This cultural change shifts corporate behaviors to include empathy and a commitment to deliver increased value that leads to loyalty and increased revenues.
Companies that have achieved market leading success over the past 15 years (i.e. Apple, Starbucks, Virgin, Cirque du Soliel, Target, Four Seasons, Zappos …) are companies that are changing industries by focusing on delivering new, compelling customer value and experiences.
These companies have achieved this success through their commitment to deep customer insights that expose new opportunities to deliver exciting new experiences that are relevant and valued. This approach leads to customers who become devoted to the brand, serving as advocates who can’t wait to tell their friends and family about their exciting experiences with company products and services … This is the ultimate goal of any company, achieving this level of loyalty and advocacy.
The first step to building this type of relationship is a focus on Voice of the Customer (VOC), establishing a series of customer interactions and input channels. This commitment to VOC ensures company decisions and investments are informed with fresh, relevant insights as new ideas and concepts are prioritized, designed and delivered.
Voice of the Customer goes beyond the typical satisfaction survey or customer leadership council (which a lot of companies put in place). High impact VOC interactions should include a full spectrum of customer input channels; i.e. customer visits, customer interviews, customer observations, customer surveys, profiles/personas and journey maps. These efforts reflect a true commitment to understanding the customer. These varied approaches help cross-business teams establish “fresh” perspectives on current customer wants, desires, preferences, activities and challenges … practicing what we call “proactive empathy”.
This level of customer input, feedback and insight creates a “Customer” environment that allows companies to get close to the customer and identify current experience gaps. The discovery of experience gaps leads to innovation opportunities that can result in new exciting solutions and experiences that are relevant and valued. As customers see new solutions delivered that address day-to-day challenges and help them reach their goals, they realize the commitment made to gain this understanding and become devoted advocates. Apple, Harley Davidson, Four Seasons, Cirque du Soleil, did not drive the deep loyalty they enjoy (and the excitement that customers exhibit for their brands) through short-term retention tactics. They achieved this devotion from long-term “Customer” commitment, delivering solutions that are fresh, new and relevant … leading to exciting new customer experiences.
We recently worked with a company that was experiencing increased levels of attrition. Like a lot of companies, they were chasing quarterly revenue and profit targets and looking for ways to close looming gaps.
For years they had turned to their current customer base to help meet quarterly targets. These approaches had become a short-term crutch for the company, often leading to long-term retention issues. The CEO and regional President were committed to becoming more customer focused and identifying longer-term approaches to customer loyalty and increased revenue. We helped them implement a series of new customer input channels that provided fresh perspectives on customer activities and needs, wants and desires. These VOC initiatives helped to expose root cause and identify change initiatives that would help deliver new value, drive increased revenue, improve the customer experience and build stronger customer relationships. They realized that customer retention was not achieved through short-term tactics but is the result of a long-term customer commitments.