Driving Loyalty by Mitigating Disloyalty

Is sales more focused on bringing in new customers than serving existing customers? This question surfaces as customer churn increases. Often, sales is incentivized to acquire new customers at the cost of relationships with existing customers. However, this is only part of the problem. The other driving factor is a level of familiarity with returning customers. Assuming an understanding of their business and their needs means there is little investment in the time and effort it takes to be curious.

Sales teams make a significant investment in new customers. They take the time to understand their needs and work to quickly resolve technical inquiries to get to the meat of building a relationship. The best teams know that the goal is to understand the customer’s challenges and provide innovative and efficient ways to address those challenges.

However, after the honeymoon period is over, it is easy to slip into a period of status quo. To, as Matthew Dixon terms it, fail to mitigate disloyalty. This may take the form of allowing email transactions to become the norm. While this is not entirely inappropriate, there must be mechanisms in place to ensure that those email orders are not the only communication with long-term customers. Companies must allow internal teams and customers the time and space to explore other, potentially hidden, business challenges, to revisit previous assumptions and ensure that the fixes put in place are still the best possible option. As Steve Jobs puts it, “Get closer than ever to your customer. So close that you tell them what they need well before they realize it themselves.”

The first step to exceeding your customer’s expectations is to know those expectations. – Roy H. Williams

 

Bringing a New Business Approach to Current Customers

 

Whether a new inquiry comes through digital channels or over the phone, the first question is often technical. Customers have a technical problem and need answers to ensure that their production lines stay open. In this scenario, the first priority is to get the customer over that hurdle – to fight the fire.

Once the immediate need is resolved, begin to explore their business and to understand why they are contacting a new provider. Explore their business needs and develop ways to streamline ordering, ensure the best product fit, and optimize current processes. In short, deliver a customer experience that mitigates disloyalty. “Customer service is the experience we deliver to our customer. It’s the promise we keep to the customer. It’s how we follow through for the customer. It’s how we make them feel when they do business with us,” Shep Hyken, renowned customer service speaker and author, says.

To bring this approach to existing customers, implement processes that ensure customer service and sales teams are routinely reaching out to their loyal customer base. Fostering  a genuine interest in serving their needs in every capacity is paramount to mitigating disloyalty. We all know what assuming does.

Lean thinking defines value as providing benefit to the customer; anything else is waste. – Eric Ries

 

Answering the Price Question

 

When prompted, customers often cite price as a reason for looking for a new supplier. However, price is usually only a symptom and not the illness. The deeper issue is a lack of value. If a supplier provides value that exceeds the price paid for the product, price will never be an issue. Price only becomes a problem when the customer sees a lack of balance between the price paid and the value received.

Every product-based business struggles with this. How can you provide value that exceeds the price of the product? The answer: exceptional customer service, which is more about mitigating disloyalty than driving loyalty. Dixon points out that customers are disloyal when businesses get the basics wrong: deliveries are late, communication is poor, or the company fails to execute. This happens when the business does not stay in touch with their customers’ needs; when the status-quo is prioritized over improvement efforts. When curiosity and a desire for improvement ceases.

Spend lots of time talking to your customers. You’d be amazed at how many companies don’t listen to their customers. – Ross Perot

 

Creating a Personal Brand

 

Correcting customer churn requires treating existing customers with the same passion as new customers. Customer service and sales teams must understand the value associated with these customers and place a higher priority on nurturing both new and existing relationships.

One way to do this is to encourage team members to create their own personal brand. Although each employee works under the company umbrella, there is still a personal element at play. A personal brand defines individual employees to customers. It is the characteristics, personality, and drive that defines the relationship. It is understanding that simply selling a product does not always solve the problem but that, with dialog, the right problem can be uncovered and resolved. It is getting past the superficial – even if that means picking up the phone or visiting in person – and getting to the root.

Your customer doesn’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. – Damon Richards

As an organization, be willing to take stock in your current position and always be open to constant improvement and small wins. Doing so supports business growth and gives customer service and sales teams the opportunity to create deep, long-lasting relationships with existing customers.

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