You get the call… your customer has decided to “move in a different direction.” You know what that means. To not put too fine a point on it, they just fired you. So, the conversation moves from some obligatory, futile attempt to persuade the customer not to move to eventually discussing how that relationship will wind down. This conversation is never good.
There are many reasons customers leave. They went out of business, acquisitions, and strategy change – many reasons. These reasons can be understood and are simply a part of doing business. The reasons that “suck” are a little harder to handle. This is the where your focus needs to be. The processes (or lack thereof) that are not being used or need improvement, the cultural priority that may or may not exist within your organization.
Doing a post mortem on any customer loss is always necessary because it’s important to understand what went wrong. But, more importantly, is there something you can do to avoid this “move” in the future?
The questions I have are these. Before this conversation took place, did your organization make customer retention a real priority? Is customer satisfaction in your cultural DNA? Do you have processes in place to avoid this situation? Do you regularly measure satisfaction? Do you have mechanisms in place that allow customers to blow off steam in a constructive manner? Is customer “churn” discussed at all levels of the organization – from CEO, through the ranks, and, finally, to the employees on the front line? If not, they should be. Keeping your customers forever should be job #1.
Losing even one customer can have many impacts. Financial, employee morale, legal, marketing, sales… everyone is impacted one way or another. Without belaboring the issue too much, the question is quite simple – Do you have a customer experience initiative and strategy that starts from the first handshake to infinity?
What is your goal as a company? Let’s assume, for argument’s sake, it’s to build products and services that are valuable and beneficial to your customers as well as craft an experience that builds long term business relationships with all parties involved. Here’s a simple example: “We believe our organizational mission will position “ABC Company” to maintain a healthy, competitive, sustainable business in our market.”
With a strong focus, mission statement, and clear prioritization that places the customer experience at the forefront of business sustainability, the next questions are what are you going to do about your customer experience. To streamline the conversation, let’s say you should have an initiative in place that identifies, documents, and reviews every customer touch point, from the lead generating activities and mechanisms to the actual sales engagement, service turnover, customer support, financial processes (Invoicing, contracting, etc.). You also need to analyze each for their strengths and weaknesses with appropriate action plans and ongoing governance to ensure a desirable outcome. Many people call this “Customer Journey Mapping.” It’s a big deal, and it will deliver value simply by identifying and improving processes and creating a strong positive customer experience.
The most important thing to do is acknowledge that you need to review improvements to your customer “processes.” Try to think of your customer processes in the broadest terms – remember, customers touch all areas of your organization – almost everyone in your company has some impact on the customer experience, even the people who keep your office looking nice have an impact. So, assuming you move forward on this initiative, use this transformative perspective to outline your plan, engage others, solicit feedback, and inspire action. Maybe it’s even time to identify a corporate-wide activity if necessary on the subject. In its simplest terms, that is what mapping the customer journey is all about, and the design outcomes and benefits are up to you.
Communication | Collaboration | Unified Experience
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