Is “Playing the Field” Worth Losing the One You’re With?Posted by Luis Serpa on August 17, 2007 - 7:24 PM
Stop right there!
If you were looking for some “how to improve your love life” article, you came to the wrong place. Rather, I would like to explore how the emotions involved in customer relationships are strangely similar to those you have with your loved ones.
Well, customers may be willing to share the object of their affection with a couple million other people, but the difference ends there… Like in romances, customers will become jealous if you favor others over them. If your company sees more value in acquiring new customers than in keeping a current one, the current one will leave.
Take for example wireless companies. To get into the proverbial bed with you, they lie and say they’ll treat you right. They offer you free phones, cash back, gifts and promise to take care of you and make you happy forever after. However, as soon as the sun comes up, or you’ve signed a two-year contract, you are tossed aside and simply added to the list of their many conquests. You, as an individual customer, don’t matter anymore.
Being treated this way is bad enough but then, adding insult to injury, the company continues to flirt with others right in front of you; making the same empty promises they made to you.
If your girlfriend or boyfriend treated you this way, how would you respond? Exactly!
Now, how do you think your customers will respond?
Oh sure, you may be able to fool a few and keep them with you for a while. But, as soon as the competition starts making its move and offering better perks, your customers are as good as gone.
Long romance or one-night stand?
Does offering all these perks to attract new customers really pay off when you treat them like that and they leave you in two years? Why not reward loyal current customers by giving them special offers or at least the same advantages as new customers when they renew their contracts. Better yet, why not offer them incremental benefits throughout the years?
It costs six times more to attract a new customer than to keep an existing one.1
So, investing in customer retention not only saves your company money, it also leads to loyal, life-long customers and a higher return on investment.
In simple language: Set the right expectations, and be ready to invest as much in retention as you do in acquisition!
After all, one of the most basic rules of relationships is that if you are happy with what you have, you will be less tempted or willing to risk your relationship for instant gratification.
Is it time to break-up?
SPRINT has taken a somewhat unique approach to the customer relationship; they’ve flipped the table and are dumping their unhappy customers, (SPRINT is starting to cancel customers’ contracts when they call customer service too often).
I wrote an article about this topic last year (Bad, Bad Customer… No Soup for You!), explaining how companies were starting to identify customers who don’t measure up or are deemed too high maintenance.
I am not taking sides on this matter2, but you can bet that outraged high maintenance customer is going to tell everyone she knows about your service and your company has a lot more to lose in brand awareness and public image than she does.
Having said all this, I ask again: Is it worth losing the one you’re with?
1 – Stevens, M. Extreme Management: What They Teach At Harvard Business School’s Advanced Management Program. Warner Business Books, March, 2002.
2 – You can read views of both sides on Seth Godin’s Blog “Treating different customers differently” and “The first thing“, and also at the consumerist.com.
Originally published at Vox Inc Customer Experience Articles
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