Aug 29, 2007

Top 10 Ways to Increase Customer Retention and Lower Turnover Of Valuable Clients

How good are you at retaining your customers and building customer loyalty?

Here's my Top 10 list of keys to maximize customer retention, lower turnover, and build bettter business relationships with your customers:

1. Send "Thank you" letters. Thank you letters boosted the former President Bush from a nobody to VP and eventually President of the United States. Think the 1,000 thank you letters he wrote a year made a difference?

2. Utilize better implementation. Project managers are key to success. If you don't have a project manager for each new customer, consider hiring someone dedicated to this function. It is key to all new launches. Statistics I've seen indicate that projects with a program or project manager (implementation manager) are 70% successful where those driven without this key person only succeed 30%, in general.

3. Handle complaints proactively. When a customer voices a complaint, ask them how you might ideally help them. If you don't have a solution, ask them what a suitable solution for them might be. Let them be in charge. Then offer them the solution, if you can, or point them to where they might find the solution. Do everything in your power to avoid customers remaining upset with your business. One negative customer can destroy twenty positive interactions with a prospect. You want to avoid toxic customer relationships, at almost any cost.

4. Get clear on what you want from each other. Avoid the common challenge of vague vision of relationship. If the relationship has not been clarified between your firm and the customer, you're running the risk of losing them to a competitor. People who can set the vision include the CEO, Salesperson, Operations Manager, Customer Service Representative, Greeter, Checkout, and more. I'm a big believer in this. To this end, I've been developing a model for Semantic Collaboration. Truly dynamic teams collaborate to deliver positive a experience for customers. So, if you aren't sure how to build cross-functional, dynamic teams, contact me and I'll hook you up with some resources.

5. Words matter. It's not just training people on what to DO, but also training to know what to SAY. Too often customer support agents, are thinking from THEIR point of view (as a seller or support person), not from MY point of view (as a buyer or customer who has a need that I want met). It's not about them, it's about me. If I have a concern as a buyer, it needs to be heard by the seller or agent of the seller. Why don't people get this? I suppose, it's because we're all dealing with our own point-of-view, yet when we transcend this we can truly deliver unique and wonderful customer support.

Training ALL employees on how to identify, meet, and communicate regarding customer needs is essential. If you don't have a program to do this, I can help you develop one rather inexpensively. Developing programs to increase customer loyalty and decrease turnover ought to be crucial to your long-term customer retention plan.

6. Hire and keep those who LOVE their job. (Get rid of the rest.) People that hate their job create dissatisfied customers. Why? They'll talk bad about the company, give a less effort, and deliver halfway results. How well are you empowering employees? If they are clock-watching, they're not loving their job! If they're staying overtime, they MAY be loving their job, or it might be culture coming from you, or from other managers. A WIIFM meeting usually won't determine how much people love or hate their work. People usually end up hating their work more after a WIIFM meeting than before it, from my experience. I'd poll people discretely, anonymously, every three months, then you can spot trends as to job satisfaction.

How many of your employees hate their jobs? 10%? 20%? It is kind of a harsh question, but can be even harsher if you don't know the answer. Go down the list of your employees and answer honestly. Are there many? Are there any?

What does this figure mean?

Actually, it means quite a lot. The implications of employees hating their jobs are significant to the extent that they affect the quality of customer service.

Employees who hate their jobs are most likely to develop the following behaviors:

* They are apt to quit at any moment. Many are highly sensitive and the slightest annoyance will trigger their leaving.

* Theft. When employees are not satisfied with their jobs, they see their actions as justifiable, however questionable they may be. Their justification may be that they feel they are owed or they may simply be vindictive and want to hurt the company.

* Rude. They are much more apt to be rude to customers--it's a way to act out their feelings of anger and frustration.

* Uncooperative. They will not be co-operative; they will not inform anyone about problems that they notice, ones that could be prevented and serve to improve the business.

* Their attitude will rub off on satisfied employees making everyone dissatisfied. This is a phenomenon that I find amazing. How can one employee with a bad attitude affect so many good employees negatively? You'd think it would be the other way around; many employees with good attitudes should affect the bad employee. Unfortunately, that is simply not so. The fact is, one unhappy employee can spoil the whole rest of your team. So, like a dead limb on a tree that needs pruning, so it is with your team.

7. Client maximization. It's 5 times easier to sell to the client you have than to add a new one and the last study I read indicated it costs 10 times more to sell to the new client than the existing client. How often do you ask your clients if they have any problems or concerns that you are NOT yet helping them with?

This will open the door to new opportunities.

Do you have a program to cross-sell to existing customers? Customer Retention programs are actually great ways to disguise this important selling method.

Are you up-selling people? Customer Retention offers the ability to up-sell people. Sometimes, if someone is unhappy, they have the wrong level of support. Sell them MORE and they GET MORE. Also, Customer Retention and Loyalty programs offer opportunities to ASK FOR REFERRALS (in my experience, the single most powerful sales tool in existence.)

Maximize your sales opportunities and grow your business through your Customer Retention program.

8. Evaluate your salespeople. If your salespeople are selling the wrong product or service, your customer can be very angry. I was once assigned selling to the Radisson Hotel, and when I called the controller, Frank, he was very upset with my company. When I dug deeper, I learned that the former salesperson had over-committed our ability to deliver product to him. And, when products were late, people would practically stomp on his desk out of frustration. Amazing he had any fingers left when I met him! Anyway, Frank explained the situation, and I learned that the former salesperson had set improper commitment levels. When I reset the commitment expectation to one that both Frank and I could accept and know I could deliver upon, Frank became a happy customer again. Customer Retention calls are opportunities to save lost business. They are also opportunities to learn if your salespeople are displaying bad habits.

Good salesmanship ensures you can deliver service that’s consistent with your value proposition and brand.

9. Measure trends. Are you using polls, trends, surveys correctly? Smart Customer Retention knows if various levels of support are getting better over time or slipping a little. If they slip a lot, you stand to lose a lot of customers!

Make sure you use polls and surveys to measure the lifetime value for different segments of your offerings. Also, use that data to improve your marketing to these segments, too.

10. How focused are you on retention? Are you using retention as a major focus of your marketing efforts? Every three months I go through my emails and look for problems, missed opportunities. You'd be surprised how many times I've created a customer by using this practice to self-monitor my own customer retention. If you've overlooked a question, you may have an opportunity. If you missed a chance to resolve a negative, take action and fix it now. The last time I did this, I ended up getting more business the next week. Is retention part of your annual plan for customers?
Make retention a built-in part of your marketing plan. Go the extra mile, and figure out ways to utilize this list. I've also been building a customer satisfaction survey, which you can find through the resources link at If you find this useful, let me know.

We care about your concerns, and I hope it shows. If you care about this article, please pass it on to your CEO, VP Sales & Marketing, VP Operations or COO, and Human Resources people. Help us get the word out so that we can all experience better customer relationships.

10 Secrets To Blogging More Successfully

I'm a blogger. Are you? Blogging is one of the coolest things going on with the web, today.

I blog, therefore, I am. At least, it feels that way, when you blog! I recommend blogging to almost every company I'm working with right now. Why? Because you can really improve your interactive marketing through Blogging.

What is a blog? It's kind of a website. People often think of blogs as "online journals" but they really are much more than that. Blogs are a way to interact with people with frequent posts about a wide variety of content.

Several years ago, I had someone ask me if my site,, was a blog. At the time, AspireNow was not a blog. However, it may have been wise to have launched much of the site as a blog - had I known where blogging was going to go. Why?

Because blogs have stronger LABELS (read: keyword optimization) and blogs have stronger BACKLINKS. And BACKLINKS are the key to success, in terms of SEO (search engine optimization), on the web. Want proof? Look up and That's right: a blog started by a guy who was basically a nobody in the world of self-help is not BIGGER than OPRAH in terms of traffic and backlinks. THAT is the power of blogging. Do it right, and you'll get HUGE traffic.

The reason for this is because when you post to your blog you are essential SYNDICATING your information to go out on thousands of RSS feeds (provided you've submitted your blog to feedburners). There are special considerations with that for you to consider.

Blogs are also an additional source of generating traffic.

Last, blogs position you as an EXPERT. It is a chance to inform and share, not sell. Thus, a blog is actually a stronger selling tool than your regular website.

Here are 10 boosts to creating better blogs to interact with your users:

1. Know what you want to say. If you have nothing to say, you won't be interesting. Why do you want to write a blog post? If you don't know what you want to say, you don't have vision. And people without vision are B-O-R-I-N-G. So, get your vision squared away FIRST!

Also, when you're posting, start with a solid introduction paragraph. Use visual elements, such as photos, movies, and other things you have license to use. Just make sure you own the copyright.

2. Titles matter. Structure matters, too. People like titles like: 10 ways, 7 steps, 5 things about... type of titles. They also like FUNNY or QUIRKY titles. TEASERS. Simple titles also work. Make sure you use links and block quotes. I think the most important thing to know about a blog is that you're syndicating to the world, so make sure what you put out is what you want to send... if you don't blog the entire article (include a link back to your website) that is okay, just make sure your TITLE rocks. Start with something engaging. Don't apologize in your TITLE!

3. Blog often. You want to gain exposure. You also want to make it easy for people to track back to you. You don't need to ask for it, just give them PERMISSION to do it, and they will.

4. Blog well. People don't want to read crap. What you write is what you are, to the blog community. And, to the blogging reader, what they read is what is defining their behavior. So, be interesting. Be funny. Be unique. Again, don't apologize (well, unless you royally goofed!) and be REAL. People can tell who you are by the writing voice you use in your blog.

Don't miss the fact that KEYWORDS MATTER. Make your blog KEYWORD RICH to the words that you want to target for your topic. If you want to maximize your SEO, you must maximize your use of keywords. Keywords I love include: how to, I want, what I need, and tags to popular current titles, like Harry Potter, or the Secret.

5. Comment on other blogs. Strange as it may seem, comment on OTHER blogs. Many links back to your blog from these blog sites. Especially HIGHLY rated blogs. An example of how this worked for me recently is Statcounter's Blog. I received an email sharing how the Statcounter CEO received an entrepreneur award. I visited the blog and congratulated him, with a link back to my site. My site received more hits from Statcounter than any other site for the next week.

6. Create With A Simple Initial Design. I think design is important. The best blogs I've found are not littered with widgets. They simply have articles, archives, and a few recommendations that make it easy to interact with them. They may or may not have ads. Simplicity in text also matters - so does HONESTY. Create a special header graphic using image design software (illustrator, Image Composer, or something like that). That way, your blog has your logo posted. Make sure if you run ads on your blogs, you have the ads in key areas and not littered all over your blog. You can have ads run at the top, top left, middle of articles, and bottom as primary ad locations. My feeling is to choose two or three of these locations and run with those.

7. Do not SELL, repeat, do not sell on your blog! Important!! What I'm talking about is the context of your TEXT. If you are selling people in your information you share then people reading your blog may lose trust, so just state your opinion. Stating your opinion, as an EXPERT, IS important, however. So share your opinions. Also, share opinions from other bloggers you like.

8. Burning your blog. Make sure your blog is listed properly. Listing your blog through feeds: RSS Feeds. I'm using Feedburner to burn my blog feed, and considering some other burners to make sure that my blog gets posted. A feed burner essentially cleans the blog post and sends it to other blog sites that post blogs. It basically is a network and methodology of sharing your blog. You definitely want to share your blog, or what would be the point of blogging in the first place, right?

9. You're SYNDICATED. Make sure you realize that everything you publish on your blog MAY be syndicated and published on OTHER blogs. All they have to do is run the RSS feed, and they'll have your content. So, only publish information you don't mind SHARING with others!

10. What Blog Software To Use? What's the best blogging software? I don't have a conclusive answer on this question yet. I am researching this: I find that blog software like Blogger is easy to use. That's why I'm using it. However, I am considering a switch to WordPress or Typepad. Why? Because many of the top blogs are hosted through those software. They offer more features, better statistics, and so on. I'll report more on this later.

Do you have any tips to help people blog better? Why not share them here and create blog back links to your own blog?

Scott Andrews is CEO of ARRiiVE Business Solutions ( Executives seek out ARRiiVE's wisdom for help in starting a company, launching new products and services, improving sales team performance, creating interactive marketing, and building collaborative teams. Contact at or 805-459-6939.

Aug 2, 2007

Time Wasters in Corporate America?

Every now and then an article comes up that catches my eye. Today, an article on wasting time in corporate environments lit up - because I hate wasting time. Time is the one resource we can never get back once it is gone.

The interesting thing about this report, sponsored and published by AOL and, is the disparity between the amount of time employers (or HR) thought employees waste, and the amount of time employees actually admitted to wasting.

The report, originally published in 2006, quotes the following:

Average hrs. American worker actually wastes is 1.70 hrs.
Average hrs. American workers are expected to waste by HR .94 hrs.
Difference between expected and actual time wasted = .76 hrs.

That is 197 hrs. per year wasted MORE than HR people think is going to be wasted. Multiplying that out by the Average American worker's annual salary $16.86 per hour = $3,321 x the total number of American workers (non-farm) 135 million = $448.4 Billion cost to companies.

Wow. Okay, does it really matter? To a lessor extent, in every company, yes, it does.
Time wasted, to me, means one of three things:

1. Employee is bored, lazy, ADD, or underutilized.
2. Manager is not paying attention to how employee spends their time.
3. Employer is not structured to empower their employees.

Number one is somewhat rectifyable. Even lazy people will work harder if they are motivated. It is up to an employer to utilize their people's skillsets. Although, if you're an employee reading this and you're just not giving your best because, well, no reason at all, then shame on you. Get it together, work hard, do your best no matter where you are. But, the reality is, I think most employees actually DO want to contribute.

So, let's look at #2 and #3. #2 Manager is not paying attention to how employee spends their time. Well, if the manager is wasting time, too, this may be part of the problem. But, deeper than that, managers ought to know, at least to some extent, what employees are up to. There are ways to know: telephone reports, cell phone expenses, lunch expenses, customer reports, one-on-one meetings, etc. If a manager doesn't look at these to know that (a) the employee is actually doing work, and (b) the employee is putting the production or not, then the manager is in the wrong job. A manager who is motivating their team and utilizing their talents to the fullest will generally be the most successful manager. So, aim at ways to motivate and empower your team so they can make you the successful manager you want to be.

Last, #3 - Employer is not structured to empower their employees. This is the problem most organizations in America are struggling with today. EMPOWERMENT. Why? Well, they structure like a pyramid -- almost all of them. And, pyramid structures are great for creating an army of robots, but they aren't great for enabling people to be creative and innovative.

The solution to that problem? Structure in a new way. We're working on a structure enabling Semantic Collaboration to occur. Semantic Collaboration is a term we coined after reading about Web 3.0 Search becoming "semantic search" and relating what we're doing to build collaborative teams. Semantic Collaboration builds dynamic teams based upon skills and abilities rather than job description and title. It is a refreshing way to treat people. And, from our research, people respond with more innovation and higher productivity when semantic collaboration is embraced by an organization. So, for many organizations, structuring more creatively would allow far more innovation and productivity. I've published an article on a model of collaboration I call the Diamond-Circle model, which is the first step to implementing semantic collaboration in your organization.

The last key to avoiding waste of time is to promote an atmosphere of collaboration, contribution, and creativity. People ought to be able to waste *some* time if it is how they recharge their batteries, create friendships that allow higher quality of work, and build teams. So, that type of time may actually not be a waste, at all.

If you're in HR and wondering how to deal with these challenges, reach out to organizations focused on improving structure, process, and collaboration. If you're in upper management, avoid focusing solely on numbers. People ought to be rated for their human factor, too. But consider structuring from the inside-out, rather than top-down, to enable more collaboration and go to the "hot-hand" to meet the challenges and opportunities for your organization.

Last, if you're an employee, for pete's sake, either find a job that you love, or create one that you won't want to waste your time away -- after all, your time is your own. And, as Shakespeare once wrote, "to thine own self be true."