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Monday, 2 April 2012

Easy money going begging: if a thing's worth saying once, it's worth saying twice. With a little dash of corporate misery

When times are difficult, profit is hard to come by.

But in good times and bad there is one place where you're sure to find some.

I was reminded of this because this morning Damian Lloyd, who reads (and he confesses, steals) my stuff regularly, asked me an important question.

He wanted to know what I think about customer retention. He said quite rightly that "by reading your blogs it's clear that you believe in providing an excellent service as the best way to retain custom."

And he wanted to know what I feel about "more structured customer retention programmes - loyalty cards, tactical retention teams etc."

Here is what I believe - and I feel strongly enough about it to discuss it here at some length, and write to my list about it.

I think firms lose millions every day because of poor - or unimaginative - attention to customers. That is why the word "churn" comes up time and again.

People leave you for three reasons.

1. You offer over-generous deals to recruit them and hope they won't notice when you jack the price up a while later.

2. What you deliver is not as good as what you promise.

3. You communicate badly.

Does that makes sense to you?

Well, only you can do something about the first two factors. They require a lot of thought and work.

But you can easily do something about the third.

  • If you look for greater profit keeping people longer is the easiest method; these people - assuming you deliver what you promise - are money for jam.
  • Any method is better than no method. 
  • Most firms tend, like lustful bachelors, to devote themselves to the thrill of the chase - acquisition - rather than retention.
  • I don't like loyalty cards. They are organised bribery. A zero sum game - "everyone else has one; so must we". Giving something real - better service - seems to me better.
  • I tend to hate teams of all kinds, I'm afraid. I doubt if Einstein was much of a team player. But this is a personal quirk.
  • I would prefer a loose structure, where people are asked to come up with ideas that will make customers happier as often as they can.
  • But I guess in large organisations managers think things should run in a way that minimises the need to think, which means teams and processes are important.
  • I also suspect that is why many people in such organisations are not very happy - in fact one wrote to me today saying so, as follows:
"Ah Drayton, pretty much everything you write about business and marketing follies is a description of my life at *****. Your new 'How to keep your mouth buttoned up... in meetings' could be a best-seller. The last meeting I was in, I spent writing a poem while pretending to take notes. It was the most productive meeting I'd had in years.

Firms are quite exceptionally bad when it comes to regular service messages sent to customers.

These are actually far more important, relevant and interesting to customers than the promotional stuff firms focus on. I don't care about what you want to sell me. I care about my problems.

But these messages are not seen as "creative", so are given to very junior people to do. Sheer folly. Few of these people can write well, thanks to our laughable educational system.

One insurance firm hired me twice to rewrite their service messages. Not much fun for me, but very important for them and their customers.

(They hired me twice because a new marketing director came in after the first time and said my messages were too long and - you guessed it - not "creative" enough. Buffoon.)

If you want to keep customers longer and regain the money that leaks away, you must have people who know how to write and persuade. For that, I suggest my video on the subject.

As I have said God alone knows how many times, good copy costs no more than bad. I think that may apply to service, too.

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