From the world of “shocking but true”: There are real, actual companies out there that are turning away revenue. Literally, they have customers shaking fistfuls of dollars in their direction and walking in the opposite direction.
Before you shake your head, thinking this is blasphemy, the stark reality is this: You, too, could be guilty of the same offense.
Do I have your attention? Good. As a Chief Marketing Officer, I’ve encountered many companies so focused on acquiring new clients, they forsake their sacred responsibility to keep their existing clients happy, engaged, and paying.
An example: I worked with a software company that had a sales machine. Their goal was to acquire as many customers as possible – suck the customer dry through usurious maintenance charges that, yes, added as much as 25 percent on top of license costs, but also served to alienate these customers.
On the sales side, it was all about the love. Prospects got white-glove treatment, receiving assessments to detail the value to the business. After the deal closed, they were moved to an implementation phase which many times drove the poor Cx.
Upon contract renewal, customers had a choice to make. In the words of the 1980s punk group The Clash: “Should I stay, or should I go?” They had to weigh the pain of re-implementing a new solution vs. the customer experience. The company was surprised when customers chose to jump ship.
The most common positioning blunder companies make is confusing the distinction between why potential clients choose you, and why current customers remain with you. Maintaining current customers is cheaper than signing new ones, so you need to make sure your messaging and behavior reflects that.
Confusing the reasons prospective clients choose you, with the reasons existing clients stay with you, is a big fat NO NO. Have you or a member of your team ever said this:
“We tried listening to clients, and we discovered it just slowed us down; clients were frequently incorrect, so we decided to create one message for both clients and prospects. We stopped pretending we cared, which saved us time and money in the short-term. Yes, everyone says we ought to put some sort of stake in the ground for the client experience because everyone else is. My two cents? Meh.”
Wrong. Not only can it be crushing to your existing customers, but it could poison the well of prospective customers, who may be rightfully skeptical of your Cx claims.
Consider… a potential customer knocks at your door. They’re dissatisfied with their current vendor but figured out how to get acceptable work from them. Some things bother them, but the current firm is the only one they’ve ever worked with. How can they be sure that switching to your organization won’t lead to confusion and poor deliverables?
You can try to convince the prospects with reference selling, but that’s usually biased.
With bottom-of-funnel prospects, client-like on-boarding and trial programs do a great job of projecting the right “chi” with bottom-of-funnel prospects. Such an approach:
1. Demonstrates that you understand the space the prospect operates in and that you have a clear understanding of their needs.
2. Gives the prospect an opportunity to sample the actual Cx without committing to becoming a customer.
3. The tighter your positioning, the clearer the customer experience process will be. It's like setting boundaries for your child - the clearer they are, the more secure the child feels. It's the same with prospects (s-s-h-h - don't tell them I said that).
Then, reinforce to your current customers:
1. Continually work to understand their needs because they could've changed since the time they purchased. The best way to do this is an actual interview of client stakeholders.
2. Look for cross- and up-sell opportunities to solve new pains that have arisen.
3. Dedicate time "just to listen."
4. Evaluate their customer support interactions and determine improvements - both tactically and long-term – to treat them as if they are your only client.
Every Chief Experience/Customer Officer says, "our competition claims to be great, but WE REALLY ARE great"... then why do your customers leave? And how do you stop the exodus?
It’s clear – if you stop treating your new clients with the same verve, and start taking them for granted, you’ve stopped developing the account in their best interests.
Let’s prevent this reality together. First, make sure to be the kind of firm that clients want to work with all the time. Next, keep your promises and be there for them. Finally, and most importantly -- don't forget why clients come to you in the first place: The great customer experience, the relationship-building skills, and the ability to establish mutual loyalty.