Is Winning Customers Is More Important Than Keeping Them?

How do you build a loyal customer base that is impervious to the sirens who try to lure them away from you with their enticing promises?

I’ve spent considerable space in this blog talking about how to build customer loyalty.

The challenge tends to be multifaceted in its set of solutions with no single silver bullet that will do the job.

Here are some specific tactics I’ve mentioned in other articles on the topic:

  • recruit people who like to serve humans.
  • abolish the dumb rules, policies and procedures in your organization that your customers don’t want to play by that only piss them off.
  • create an empowering rule system to ‘say yes’, not one that is controlling and ‘says no’.
  • listen to the frontline and do what they say you should do to improve how customers are served.
  • put in place a service recovery strategy that is enacted whenever you screw a customer over.

If you fix your OOPS! and surprise me with something I don’t expect, I will forget the mistake and remember what you did to atone for your sins.

  • allow frontline people to bend a rule in favor of the customer when it makes sense to do so.
  • give your special marketing deals to your loyal customers first before offering them to customers if your competitors (this is a classic lie most organizations tell: they say they want to encourage and reward a customer who has been loyal to them for many years, but refuse to offer them the same special deal they offer someone who they want to attract from a competitor).
  • pivot you’re call centers away from call processors with cost management as the priority to ‘loyalty centers’ where caring for people is the key— and don’t outsource them.
  • forget about what your competitors are doing to take your customers; worry about what YOU are doing to KEEP them.

Although these tactics are proven to be effective in retaining customers, for long term benefits they need to be expressed within a cultural context.

They need a cultural framework that defines the people in the organization should value loyalty above anything else and that they should behave a certain way in order to earn it.

In my experience, this cultural context is best expressed this way:

In order to build long term customer loyalty, we must do whatever it takes to ‘win the customer’s business every day’.

In other words, if we want the customer’s loyalty forever, we need to have a ‘win their business everyday’ mindset that permeates the entire organization.

  • We need to earn the right to serve them, not expect that since they are a customer of ours today, they will be a customer tomorrow.
  • It’s an active expression connoting proactivity rather than a passive approach to ‘managing the account’.

It’s a drive to take action to retain their business rather than assume the business is ours and react when we think it’s in jeopardy.

The key words in this value statement are: ‘Whatever ‘- ‘Win’ - ‘Business’ - ‘Everyday’

‘Whatever’ — there are few limits when it comes to keeping the customer on our side in every department of the organization.

Everyone’s job is to go all out to find appropriate ways to do what the customer wants.

And notwithstanding that every organization has rules and policies, there is substantial latitude given to step outside the rule system and do what’s needed to meet the customer’s needs.

‘Win’ — treat every customer engagement as if it represented a new sale. Expend the same amount of energy engaging with an existing customer as you would trying to win a customer away from their current supplier.

It’s amazing to me how much time and money most organizations invest in trying to either lure someone away from another company or win back a customer who was lost to a competitor.

The extra effort and cost made to ‘offer 3 months free service’ or ‘give away a TV’ should be reserved for loyal customers first and everyone else second but it is rarely done.

‘Business’ — get away from the notion of ‘managing the account’. Your actions with an existing customer are to expose problems and opportunities for them and new business for you.

It’s a proactive approach you take for every encounter you have with a customer who has been with you for some time.

The questions you ask all point to uncovering the issues they have that can be accommodated by your product and service solutions. The ‘How’s it going?’ call isn’t that at all; it’s prime objective is to create business value for the customer.

‘Everyday’ — winning their business isn’t an occasional act; it must be practiced every time out. You can’t take time off from this obligation. Every customer engagement must have ‘winning their business’ as the expected outcome.

Most organizations declare how important customers are to them and that they want to serve them in an exemplary way. Yet the culture of these organizations tells a different story; it values other principles.

In fact look at their performance planning system. Does it specifically measure an individual’s performance in the above categories?

If someone is not recognized and rewarded for how they contribute to and achieve the outcomes needed to build customer loyalty then nothing productive happens towards this goal.

Serious organizations ‘bake’ these behaviours into their rewards system rather than simply declaring their aspirational intent.

Only a ‘win the customer’s business everyday’ culture will produce a stream of loyal customers.

I challenge you to look at your actions and test them with the approach I advocate here to determine whether your organization is serious about procuring loyal customers or merely stating the intention but continuing to do the same-old, same-old things you’ve done in the past.

Related: The 5 Most Important Decisions a Leader Must Make