For two years in a row now, the Eastern part of North America has spent the latter half of January and early February digging out of huge blizzards which shut down airlines, delayed deliveries, and brought B2B and B2C sales to their knees, while the rest of the continent carried on with business as usual. The factors affecting customer retention were crystal clear to me as an airline customer who was affected during a recent business trip.

We all know how unhelpful airline staff can be, and I was not disappointed in my first round, but I was delighted with the retention strategy that came about through the escalation process. The United gate agent in the boarding lounge did nothing more than offer to book me on a flight that would turn my civilized set of 2 2-hour flights into a 12 hour extravaganza with horrendous layovers. When I implemented Plan B and called the airline to have them switch flights, I was met by a calm, cool, collected, friendly reservation clerk who couldn’t do enough to help, and very efficiently swapped me over to two flights on other airlines, with a better connection that got me in to my final destination an hour earlier than planned. When you expect so little, that kind of service creates a WOW that skyrockets customer loyalty and retention. They lost the battle that day by rebooking me onto other carriers, but won the war for long term customer relationships.

February is Customer Loyalty and Retention Month. Sooner or later, every business will experience weather-related challenges that will result in customer churn or customer satisfaction and retention, whether through rain, drought, hail, hurricanes, tornadoes, or more. That’s why it’s so important to have a customer loyalty strategy all year long, with a proactive approach to creating value that goes beyond the moment and builds long term customer relationships.

How to Retain Clients With The 5Rs of Proactive Customer Profitability Management

  1. Retain your most profitable customers: every customer wants to feel special, but it’s especially important to take extra care of the ones that are keeping you in business with a client retention strategy. I’m a frequent flyer with Star Alliance/United, but not at a high echelon. Nonetheless, the reservation clerk ‘saved’ me as a future client and built brand loyalty, because she cared enough to help. So I want you to ask yourself if you’re counting on candy, pens, and mugs to woo your best customers and reduce your customer churn rate (just like your competition), or are you going the extra mile to find a way to deliver the value your customers crave?
  2. Ramp Up your marginally profitable customers to build customer satisfaction, value, and retention: how often do you secretly know that you’re leaving money on the table, or instinctively feel that business is going to your competitors that should be coming to you because you don’t have a strong retention strategy in place? I could share case study after case study of training leaders and their reps to find hidden opportunities, but I want to give you just two simple thoughts to provoke new thinking that reflect the big takeaways from those case studies. It’s not up to your customers to know what you offer, it’s up to you to let them know how you solve their problems. And it’s not trying to sell more that delivers the Ramp Up impact of increasing revenue, it’s about how you retain customers by serving them more effectively. Where do those thoughts take you?
  3. Restore your unprofitable customers to breakeven or better: Do you know that some of your customers are costing you more than they’re worth, but you don’t have an effective way to deal with it other than considering firing them and creating customer churn? February is about showing our customers some love, so we don’t want to do that! We want to improve customer loyalty, retention and profitability and the good news is that there are 5 alternatives to firing the customer, but you have to know whether it’s your own self-inflicted wounds (do you often bend over backwards to take care of your customers?) or their bad behavior that has you working for free or worse still, effectively paying THEM to do business with YOU! You do your customers a favor when you take the time to determine if it’s “you” or “them” and then find ways to get things back on track with solid retention tactics. It’s worth doing because simply bringing them back to breakeven has been shown to double profitability.
  4. Regain your lost customers: Every company experiences customer churn.   Almost every organization dreads even reaching out to lost customers because they’re either afraid of what complaints or issues they’ll surface, or because they don’t have a good answer to the all-to-common excuse that it was “price” (which is rarely the true cause). If they’re a customer you’d like have back, it’s up to you to dig deeper and find out why they really left. You’ll be surprised that the grass is not always greener over on the competitive side of the fence, and delighted that a attracting and retaining those customers may be easier than you think! Then, just like the warm feeling you get when someone hands you a box of Valentine’s chocolates and invites you to take one, give them a heartfelt offer to come back and do business with you again.
  5. Reactivate your inactive customers. Improving retention is about being proactive. Do you have people in your database that you never hear from and you wonder “are they dead or just sleeping? The answer doesn’t lie in just sending them more emails, newsletters, and junk mail. The answer is finding the dog whistle that wakes them up. Just recently, two people reached out to me by phone – one a former supplier, who rapidly re-converted me into a customer when he was able to explain how their product had improved and provide a solution to something I was currently wrestling with. I still got his emails, but quite honestly, was deleting them unread. Lesson learned, Anne… pick up the phone! I received another call from a colleague who had information I’d asked for during a networking meeting. She could have just dashed of a quick email with the info, but instead she took the time to reach out, get to know me better, and find common ground. In fact, we uncovered a potential business opportunity for us both as a result of her call. Lesson learned, Anne… pick up the phone!

What’s your lesson learned from the 5Rs when it comes to attracting and retaining customers and improving customer satisfaction and loyaty? Let me know below, and I’ll send you a complimentary copy of my P.R.O.F.I+T In Plain Sight Roadmap that expands on each of the 5Rs as my Valentine’s gift to you.

 #1 Bestselling Author, International Speaker, and Accelerator Anne C. Graham is on a mission to help 5 million business leaders and their teams double their profit per employee – or more – in less than one year, in less time per week than they’re spending on email per day. Her new book Profit in Plain Sight includes the 5-step proactive P.R.O.F.I+T Plan to do it.  Connect with Anne on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.