While there are many pieces to this customer retention puzzle, today we’ll focus on operations. Obviously, you still have to give ‘em the ol’ razzle dazzle with fantastic customer service but for the most part, this sale is won. The 20% of customers that generate 80% of your business are your recurring revenue stream (the ones you can’t afford to lose). So, let’s talk about how to retain these precious few with a flawless operations workflow.
How many times have you experienced operations delays because information was passed along via the telephone game? How many times has an operations process come to a halt because no one was there to take over at the next step? The worst part of these all too familiar scenarios is that no one is held accountable, because no one has been made accountable. Furthermore, your 20% doesn’t really care who’s accountable; all they know is they don’t have their order.
Every operations department, or group of departments, should have automated work queues. The idea is that with every step of a process, the right person is notified of their expected action. Going further, these work queues should include all information needed to carry out the action, as well as a timeline for the process. Once one step of the process is complete, the next queue is triggered.
Automated work queues don’t forget to pass along information and they don’t give vague instructions. Work queues let employees know what is expected of them and what they are accountable for, making it easier for them to deliver.
At Volano, we probably overuse the word transparency but with good reason. Firstly, transparency in operations specifically, grants each moving part a bird’s eye view of the whole process, increasing accountability and virtually eliminating bottlenecks and those wretched cracks that things are always falling through.
Secondly, and just as importantly, transparency creates context and where there is context, there is engagement. When a person knows how their efforts tie into the big picture, a sense of ownership occurs. It’s leadership 101 –engaged employees make happy customers. Engaged employees by definition are invested in the goals of the organization. If your goal is to retain your 20%, it’s your employees’ goal too.
Transparency and automated work queues sound awesome, but they are part of a bigger workflow solution -repeatable processes and business rules. Establishing these rules and processes will take some trial and error, but they are 100% worth it. A customer can feel every pain point in your operations process -every time they get a product in the wrong color or size, every time their order is shipped 3 weeks after purchase, every time they can’t get someone on the phone. Tailoring and fine tuning your repeatable processes means a consistently positive experience for your customers, leading to their retention.
Not very surprisingly, we found that operations failures aren’t caused by laziness or lack of attention, but rather ineffective processes. Please don’t be fooled by the current loyalty of your 20%. If they aren’t looking for a better product, service or solution now, they will be. Unless you work at improving your operations, they’ll find it. Their loyalty to you depends on your investment in their retention. Let’s talk about customer retention now.