There's a wonderful series of self-help books by Richard Carlson around the idea of "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff (and it's all small stuff)." The basic premise is to take stock of what really matters in life and focus in on things that truly matter with a positive attitude. The books have sold millions of copies, and for good reason - they have great ideas anyone can use for their personal lives.
When it comes to business and customer relationships, everything is small stuff, and it should most definitely be sweated.
Customer Retention Requires a Micro-Focus
We've posted often about the required organizational commitment to earning customer loyalty, and how it's a heckuva lot more difficult than upping acquisition. There are ways of gaming customer acquisition that will result in constant short-term bumps (and a level of profitability, in all fairness). There is no way to game customer loyalty - it has to be earned on a daily basis, at every layer of an organization.
That includes the smallest of details.
As angry as many consumers are about corporate policies and executive behavior, that won't be the reason most of them walk away. No, those incidents happen on the micro level, not the macro (though overall corporate behavior is a growing issue with consumers).
It's the greeting they receive when they walk in the door, or the welcome packet handed over when they sign up for a membership with an organization. It's the cleanliness of the restroom, or the speed in which a service response is sent to a customer. It's employees who consider a customer more important than whatever may be happening on their smartphones at any given moment. (I bet I'm not the only one who's encountered that issue recently.)
I once selected a gym based on how their soap smelled. Just because you can't build a marketing campaign to brag about it doesn't mean it isn't important to customers.
A Few Basic Principles
What does this practice look like? Think about the companies you love. Odds are, they have a few of these common characteristics of companies that have devoted followings:
- They constantly solicit input and follow through on it (the only way a company will truly know which details they need to sweat more)
- Attentive, engaged employees
- They don't nickel and dime (Southwest not charging for checked bags is a great example of this)
- They make promises and back them up
- When they don't back those promises up, they acknowledge it and make it right
- They support good causes
- Their product/service rocks
As you can see, the actual product a company sells is just another characteristic of a great company. One that's essential, of course, but it may not be the end-all, be-all to a customer.
(Want to see the data behind customer loyalty? Click here to check out our massive collection of customer loyalty statistics)
Dirty Jobs Matter
We've all been part of companies that talk about a "customer-centric focus," which sounds great in a board room and marketing campaign but is hard as hell on a practical level. It takes a financial investment but more than that customer centricity requires change in company culture and a mindset shift for every employee from CEO to dishwasher.
Small things matter, and people are making purchasing and renewal decisions based on those details every day. That means every customer interaction is life or death, and needs to be treated as such.
Now, with all that seriousness behind us, here's a silver lining: Every one of those "small stuff" details isn't just a chance to lose a customer; they're also an opportunity to convert someone or solidify a relationship. Treating every interaction as a "must win" means you're going to win a lot more than you lose.