It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in, the most effective way to grow profitable revenue is to retain great customers. This is not news and most of us would agree with the sentiment.
But why is retention an issue for many organizations? It’s because we make retention complicated. Management needs to do a better job of articulating the behaviours and actions needed from employees in order for customers to want to continue to buy and come back again and again. In my experience, the secret to retention that I try to hammer home to our management team is that customers need both RESULTS and RELATIONSHIPS.
Let’s start with RESULTS. It’s the easiest one to understand. It’s the reason you’re providing a product or service to your customers in the first place and it’s the basis for your organization’s existence. Customers are looking for value in one form or another. For example, if I go to MEC to buy a kayak, I want a knowledgeable employee to help me select the right kayak, at a competitive price, in a timely manner so I can have the adventure I’m seeking for my chosen lifestyle. I receive the value I expect and in return, I give MEC money. I will continue to go back to MEC for that value unless another alternative promises the same thing. Competition and market alternatives force the issue of retention and loyalty, so what factor ensures that I go back?
The key factor is RELATIONSHIPS. If there is no relationship within the buying experience, it’s merely a transaction. Humans are social creatures and we thrive on meaningful interactions with others who genuinely care about us and want to help us achieve our goals. We don’t trust people if we feel they are only out for their own interest. Therefore, we need to make the buying experience as human as possible.
Let’s revisit the kayak example. During the transaction, the employee at MEC who sold me my kayak – let’s call him Chris – asks me a lot of questions about my kayaking experience: where I’m going, what my skill level is, how I store and transport the kayak, etc. He’s genuinely interested in my hobby and wants to ensure that I have a great time. Why does he do this? Because MEC has hired the right employee who fits their company core values. Chris then asks if MEC can send me the “top 10 best places to kayak in Canada” guide. I say yes. This is an important step because now MEC has permission to communicate with me post-purchase. He tells me to grab some pics and to share them with the MEC community so others know how my experience went and, in closing, wishes me luck. I pay and then leave. I may never post a pic of my trip to the MEC community page but how do I feel about MEC now? I belong.
As a professional service provider, I try to learn and get to know our clients well. I’m not just interested in their businesses but also in their lives. I want to see them succeed – personally and professionally – and the team of employees that we hire at CREW also cares about this, too. The problem with most brands and companies, though, is that they don’t always have direct access to customers. That means products and brands have to try harder in other mediums such as advertising or social media to build this connection with consumers. Achieving this, however, encompasses a completely different strategy.
The two questions to ask yourself and your employees is a) how are you helping customers achieve better results and b) how are you fostering better relationships with them? Give your staff autonomy and freedom to answer both of these questions well on a daily basis and you will be able to celebrate and reinforce the positive stories that emerge.
Have a great day!