Nuances can be difficult to see, let alone measure. Is that why business leaders seem to be doing their best to only respond to metrics? So many companies are dependent on metrics alone that they often miss small problems that lurk in the shadows, waiting for their chance to grow to devastating proportions.
Here’s a classic example in the business world:
During a meeting with a client, the organization’s CMO, who was also frantic to defend her portion of the budget, claimed the acquisition numbers were high enough to offset the recent decline in customer retention rates.
Hmmm…we need to think about this one more carefully.
If your retention rates are on the decline, this could mean a variety of things.
Have you given your customer experience the white glove test to find out which part of the customer journey needs some tidying up?
1. Check that recent changes have been for the better.
At least, not from the customer’s perspective. Customers often get upset about a change. But they are not always quick to express their dissatisfaction. A change in your product, the experience, the billing structure, the cost or any change could lead to customers jumping ship.
2. Be sure you are doing business on your customers’ terms.
Pay special attention to this one, as it can be incredibly subtle. It may be that you’re not responding to their questions and concerns on social channels. Customers might have seen a press release about a potential merger that makes them nervous. There is typically a small group that is quick to defect, but that group also tends to get larger with time. That small group can be your canaries in the coal mine. Take advantage!
3. Have you filled those big shoes when replacing your superstar reps?
This happens quite a bit in client services within agencies and service firms. You might promote your best representative because he has proven himself a valuable asset, but be careful not to replace him with the inexperienced rookie. Clients often react to this as if they have been slapped in the face and get ready to find the next superstar elsewhere. While this is a specific example, it is typically indicative of how talent management and client communications are handled.
4. Have you ignored the need for innovation?
It’s not always a high-profile launch, like when Apple introduces a new product. It’s often subtle – like when a new company quietly gains attention by offering a better value and a more memorable experience. They might not have the budget for aggressive advertising, but they often stake their claim on your once-loyal customers by innovating to tend to their needs.
5. Take a peek at those competitors you tend to forget about.
The competitor you never considered a threat may have made great improvements in the customer experience. And while you weren’t looking, Boom! They have managed to begin stealing many of your customers. Savvy competitors often find the soft underbelly of the dragon with the experience. Remember when we used to buy books in book stores? Who really thought Amazon would become as successful as they are now?
These can all mean big problems for your brand if you don’t investigate thoroughly.
If you pay attention to the subtleties, you can quickly zero in on the problems before they become catastrophic. The only way to do this is to focus on the microinteractions as well as the big stuff.
And as much as we all need them, please don’t be fooled by the metrics. In the case of the aforementioned CEO, she was fooling herself into thinking the numbers were somehow “balancing out.” It is well documented that it costs much more to gain a new customer than to keep an existing one. Aside from the obvious financial ways her math doesn’t work, the long-term outlook doesn’t add up, either.
If your customers are deciding it’s easier to walk out the door than to continue business with you, you have a much bigger problem with customer retention than you think. Don’t underestimate the nuances.
Image credits: West Point – The U.S. Military Academy (modified), DonkeyHotey (modified) via Creative Commons license