As business owners and executives, we intuitively know there are significant growth opportunities through the retention of our existing customer base.
We try different strategies to engage our customers in the hopes of building loyalty and trust. We offer them discounts, access to exclusive events, even provide them with sneak previews of our new products. But it doesn’t always work. Why is that?
One of the things that many organisations fail to do is link employee engagement to their customer retention strategies, and then link that retention to the bottom line. The reason we want to retain our customers is to help grow our business.
So why don’t more organisations measure that link effectively? Of course we want customers to be happy and we want to provide quality products and services. That is just the means to an end. Ultimately we want our customers to buy more stuff from us and help to bring us new customers who will also buy more stuff from us.
There are three maxims that will help increase retention and ensure that retention directly impacts our bottom line.
Retention happens on the front lines. The most successful organisations recognise that customer retention doesn’t happen in the executive offices or on company retreats; it happens with the people who face customers every day.
This may mean a customer visiting your store, surfing your website, calling your customer service department, reading about you in the newspaper or even walking into your head office.
Empower front-line staff
The people who have the most influence over whether customers come back are the people who deal directly with those customers. What impression do you give to customers when they interact with you?
Employee empowerment fuels retention. Since retention happens on the front lines of your organisation, the best retention strategy is one that empowers your front-line employees to use good judgement that is in the best interest of the customer.
These front-line employees are the face of your organisation and need to be passionate about what they are doing and the organisation they are working for.
It’s very easy for customers to spot employees who are not passionate and engaged in their work because, more often than not, they ignore the customer and don’t ask about their needs. Few things are more frustrating for a customer than dealing with someone who is indifferent to their needs and wants.
Are you giving your employees the freedom to use their judgement in making decisions that are in the best interests of the customer?
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Target customer retention
Measure retention, not satisfaction. When I suggest you need to measure retention, I don’t mean customer satisfaction surveys or focus groups. High customer satisfaction scores only mean that you are meeting customer expectations, but what if those expectations are too low?
We want customers to feel emotionally connected to our organisation and become an ambassador for it. We want them to tell their friends, family, peers and colleagues about the great experience they had with us.
We want customers who will keep coming back because they see the value of what our organisation can offer them. Are you measuring customer retention and linking that retention to bottom-line results, or merely reporting on how happy your customers are?
I often tell my clients the quickest way for them to grow is through their existing customer base. This might mean offering new products and services to those existing clients, or leveraging those clients for introductions to new prospective clients. Organisations that master these strategies will grow more quickly and easily and they will see customer retention increase.
Read Next: Time to Cash in On Loyal Customers
Expert tips on improving customer loyalty
Entrepreneur’s top international experts offer their insider insights.
Humanise your brand by interacting and engaging in social media channels. Behaving like a person rather than a corporation is what makes your customers feel a closer, more personal connection with your brand; and that will result in stronger brand loyalty. – Jayson DeMers, AudienceBloom
Give them a heads up. Treat your best customers like insiders. Let them know what’s going on before you tell anyone else. Include them in your decisions, ask for their feedback. Let them have the inside track and then they will feel a vested interest in staying with you. As the old adage goes, ‘Treat your company like family and your family like company.’ Apply that thinking to your most loyal customers and they will stick with you. – Jim Joseph, Cohn & Wolfe
Go above and beyond doing whatever it takes to show your customers how much you love them. Care about each person as a human, not a number. – Lewis Howes, LewisHowes.com
Show that you care about their business as much as yours. Many clients aren’t good judges of the quality of your work, but they do know, appreciate and value a smooth and thoughtful working process, no matter what service is being rendered. Also, actual contact in real time greatly enhances the bonds between people — that includes client relationships — so don’t fall back on electronic communication by default. Ask in every situation what is the best way to communicate. – Ilise Benun, Marketing-Mentor.com
Improve your customer loyalty by measuring it. By regularly and consistently reaching out to your customers for feedback on what is working and what isn’t, you can stay on top of trends and adjust as needed. Far too many companies have a ‘don’t ask them, we don’t really want to know attitude’. And if you do ask, get back to your customers about what you heard and what you plan to do about it. Nothing will destroy loyalty faster than asking but not taking any action. – Karen Leland, Sterling Marketing Group
Do something for your customers that they don’t expect. The phrase ‘be remarkable’ is often thrown around yet seldom taken to heart by businesses. Give your customers a reason to talk about you in a positive light. People don’t want to share average experiences with their friends. They want to talk about the remarkable ones. – Rick Mulready, RickMulready.com
Give customers a great experience with your brand. Period. – Adam Kleinberg, Traction
Leon Meyer GM At Westin Cape Town Shares 4 Experience-Driven Tips On How To Keep Your Team Productive
Productivity is a fundamental requirement for an organisation – it’s the seed that builds a business and contributes to higher profit margins.
Productivity is a fundamental requirement for an organisation – it’s the seed that builds a business and contributes to higher profit margins. But what’s the best way to ensure employees remain productive, and happy in their day job?
The answer is simple and highly effective and I choose to sum it up with three short phrases – respect, trust and teamwork.
In partnership with my management team, which consists of about eight staffers across various disciplines, we strive to tick these boxes.
In total we’re ultimately responsible for managing roughly 500 employees.
Five hundred employees across several departments is a mighty job. But with teamwork, good listening skills and the right attitude from the top to filter down, any business can run like a well-oiled machine.
I’d like share with you the essentials for building and maintaining a productive workforce, and these apply to all industries, not just the hospitality sector:
1. What’s your definition of a productive team and how do you achieve that?
We need to keep in mind that productivity is a result, one that CEOs and managing directors strive for with their teams. But what happens beforehand in order to achieve that result determines whether it will be achieved at all, and is equally important. I suggest the following to ensure a productive team:
Define roles and responsibilities: Direction is incredibly important; everyone needs to know exactly where they’re going and how they need to get there, so KPIs are essential.
Often when roles and responsibilities are unclear, things go pear-shaped. I am an advocate for setting clear KPIs, it’s a good way to steer us in the right direction, and in turn helps to grow the business and the individual in his/her role.
Be flexible: Rigid environments are the worst kind, allow your employees some flexibility and the opportunity to be themselves in the workplace. We spend so much of our time at work, we need to be ourselves there.
Celebrate the team: When there are achievements, celebrate them, single out individuals who are excelling and living the company values. This builds morale and is indicative of appreciation, which is fundamental when running and building a business.
2. What has and continues to be your philosophy since managing a large team?
Know your strengths and weaknesses, as well as your team’s and leverage off that. Be prepared to learn from others, no one can operate in isolation, regardless of the level on which you operate. Accept criticism and don’t bulldoze someone’s ideas, that’s how you build trust.
3. What in your view are the top characteristics the team look for in a leader?
- Be consistent – inconsistency screams bad leader
- Provide guidance – this is key, don’t turn a blind eye, give input and council
- Listen – always listen intently
- Be impartial – always be fair
- Give credit – it builds morale and shows you recognise good work
- Be patient – Rome wasn’t built in a day, and remember not everyone thinks the same as you do
4. What’s your view on an open door policy and how does it assist with managing a team and ensuring everyone remains productive?
I believe in an open door policy. It’s essential to build and develop trust. I’m the first to admit that it takes a while to build that trust, but once the team (on all levels in all departments) know your door is always open, and that they can trust you implicitly, half the battle has been won.
I host a GM’s roundtable every two months, just to establish how everyone is feeling and where everyone is at. It gives staff the opportunity to bring their challenges to the table, and I deal with them the best I can.
It’s 100 percent confidential and line managers are not allowed to attend. During this meeting we try reach common ground, and I commit to addressing and ultimately solving the problem(s).
Why Purpose Drives Profits
If you want to succeed, it’s time to start engaging where it matters.
Over the past two years, many clients have been extending brand positioning exercises into purpose-driven expressions.
When we look at it, it makes sense given the country’s demographics. With many of our fellow countrymen struggling to make ends meet, brands have stepped in to provide them with a picture of a future worth striving for.
Global customer-centricity study, Insights 2020, led by research firm Kantar Millward Brown, has attempted to understand how brands could drive customer-centric growth as well as the factors that really make a difference. The research surveyed 10 495 individuals in 60 countries, and there are some significant efforts worth investing in if brands want to engage where it matters most, in consumers’ hearts.
The research uncovered that for market-leading companies and brands, traditional value drivers such as quality, packaging, or distribution are necessary, but no longer provide a competitive advantage; most brands are capable of providing these drivers. What is important, are a few critical approaches.
1. Purpose-led brands
The study found that when companies or brands linked to a purpose, 80% of them outperformed the market. Only 32% of non-purpose led brands managed to perform better than the market.
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2. On the ground
It’s important to engage with consumers in their space and on their terms. Through the use of memorable campaigns, experiential events and activations it is critical to engage with consumers on their turf.
3. Be truthful and authentic
Consumers can smell something inauthentic a mile away, especially when it’s coming from a brand. This forces brands to strive for authenticity in everything they do, especially when it comes to marketing. Building values and principle-based attributes into your brand as a guiding tool is essential.
4. Helping consumers commit
By allowing individuals to attach themselves to a brand with a purpose, it helps consumers personally commit to a cause that they consider important. When a consumer is personally invested, the link between the brand and product or service deepens.
5. Balancing heritage and modern relevance
There is a continuous tussle in balancing the traditional market, transitional market and the new consumers brands are trying to attract. Keeping the heritage and roots of the brand true to itself, while creating relevance for the new market, is a battle marketers are still fighting.
Need To Trim The Fat To Boost Profitability? Listen To Your Clients First
Jeff Bezos believed that once you win the client over by doing this, everything else will follow – not least profitability.
Finding the balance between offering the extras that set you apart from your competitors and keeping things ‘lean and mean’ to minimise wastage and maximise return on investment is a tricky balancing act.
I’ve noticed that many businesses try to attract or retain customers by offering what they think their customers want, rather than finding out what they really need, and then delivering that. That’s an expensive mistake to make – and it’s not going to achieve the business results you need.
I’ve also observed that now is the age of the new entrepreneur – the game changers who disrupt the status quo long set by big bureaucratic competitors who think that their customers will just accept an inflationary (or slightly larger) increase every year, just because they always have.
While Amazon has been around for a while now, there’s also an important lesson to be learned from its launch goal, which was to bring the price to the client. Jeff Bezos believed that once you win the client over by doing this, everything else will follow – not least profitability.
How have I applied these lessons in my business?
Firstly, we design our hotels backwards – we focus on the needs of our clients, very aware that what hotel guests wanted years ago is not what they want now. That’s why we don’t offer thing like a turn-down service with chocolates on the pillow. Nobody eats the chocolates, and nobody uses the toiletries – so why should we include the costs of these unwanted extras (and the cost of the staff required to implement them) in the final bill to our clients?
We do, however, offer free WiFi internet connectivity, free parking in our buildings, free laundry services and either bed-and-breakfast options or self-catering rooms.
Simply put, we’ve cut the fat that nobody wants anyway, and added the value that our guests have said they expect.
Our clients have said that they expect the whole hotel to be a workstation, and not just the business centre in a dark, unwanted corner. So, we’ve put a workstation in every room, with always-on access to the internet. Our hotels are designed with beautiful work spaces that cater for nomadic entrepreneurs and double up as comfortable meeting spaces, again – gone are days of boardroom only meetings, our spaces are primed for work and play in one integrated space.
Our clients have pointed out that they’re already paying for their room – so why should they pay for parking?
Many of our clients stay with us for days or weeks at a time, and have said it would be helpful if we did their laundry. So, we do that for them – and we don’t charge them for it.
It’s true that many of our old-school competitors offer a broader range of products and services than we do, but we’ve built a successful business on adding the value that our clients need, removing the costs and extras that annoy them, and keeping costs (theirs as well as ours) under control by cutting out unnecessary frills.
It’s an approach that’s worked for The Capital Hotels and Apartments as a disruptor in the hotel and long-stay accommodation industry, and I’m confident that its principles would apply to any other industry that’s ripe for disruption.
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