When you first went into business, you probably didn’t see yourself burning the midnight oil, swamped in never-ending emails, reports, spreadsheets, presentations, and the muck of difficult people.

You likely had a passion for developing creative solutions to customers’ problems and issues, a great new idea for something that the market had never seen before, a desire to make a difference in your area of expertise, a thirst for long term customer relationships, and a commitment to attracting and retaining customers.

That’s where all the fun is in your business – out there on the OTHER side of your desk! It’s time for you to recapture that fun with a customer loyalty and retention strategy that not only gets you out from behind your desk, but uncovers the new opportunities you need to skyrocket your growth.

Seek Out the Voice of your Customer

Take the time to conduct what I call Value Creation Conversations (VCC) with your customers to surface the Voice of your Customers. VCCs are not sales calls. Not ride-alongs with reps. Not surveys and third-party market research. They’re real live executive-to-executive conversations with very specific questions where you’re NOT selling, you’re simply listening closely to where their business is going, what ELSE you need to be doing to help them get there, how you can build a stronger long term customer relationship by addressing what’s driving them crazy, and how you can increase customer loyalty and retention in unexpected ways through future innovations.

Why Customer Retention is Important

Each year I ask thousands of Executives two questions:

  • How many of you connect face to face with your customers at an executive level?
  • How many of you do it as often as you know you should?

In any audience, about half the hands go up for the first question. Less than 10% of the hands are still up after the second. If you can get a leg up on this, you’re going to differentiate yourself from your competitors, lock in customer loyalty and retention, and skyrocket growth, because:

  1. Retaining just 5% more of your customers can drive a 95% increase to your bottom line.
  2. At any time between 5-30% of your customers could be doing more business with you.
  3. Combining your problem-solving abilities with the kinds of insights you’ll never get from sales calls or surveys holds the key to the infinite ROI of Innovation – the wildcard for growth.

Surveys and sales calls give us a false sense of security today and tell us virtually nothing about what our customers will need tomorrow. That’s because the information is outdated when we get it, too generic to spark real insights, and often customers really don’t know what to ask for. If you’d been selling Sony Walkmans, you would have viewed the world through the potential for that product. If you’d been a Sony Walkman user, could you have even imagined something like an iPod and iTunes, let alone something that embedded all that functionality in your phone? But if you put a set of fresh eyes on the challenges a customer is dealing with – such as the problems with carrying a bunch of cassette tapes around to go along with that Walkman, or what to do when the Walkman “ate” your tape and destroyed your music, you might start to think about solutions in a different way. If you really want to make progress towards a healthy bottom line, your level of customer engagement and understanding of their real needs requires a new approach.

Your Best Source of New Business is Old Customers

The goal of using the Value Creation Conversation framework is to increase your customer retention rate, and drive strategic executive-to-executive conversations. You’ll walk away with 7 specific outcomes that add value to your business, and create a roadmap to add value for your customers. You’ll:

  1. Establish a deeper level of trust and credibility by understanding how loyal your customers really are, and create a baseline benchmark to work from.
  2. Engage customers by understanding all the nuances of the value proposition that will earn customer loyalty, and address any opportunities or gaps in becoming a trusted partner with low customer churn, because churn is hard on the customer as well as the supplier.
  3. Uncover the drivers that matter most when doing business with you so that you can give them more of what they love to build brand loyalty and increase retention.
  4. Discover the dissatisfiers with your firm and with their other vendors, so that you can address value gaps and eliminate what they don’t love and build customer satisfaction and value.
  5. Gain true insight into customer needs (even if they’re not sure themselves and no, not by asking “what do you need”?), so that you can uniquely use the skills and talents in your organization to deliver even better solutions to those needs – not just today, but in the future, not just for them, but in new markets and with new customers.
  6. Know where you’re leaving business on the table to the detriment of customer loyalty and retention, and understand how to recapture lost business opportunities.
  7. Understand willingness-to-pay, so that you can price for all the value you create and experience all the benefit of customer retention in a way that has them thanking you for a job well done.

Do It Yourself Efforts on Value Creation Conversations Usually Get it Backwards

On the surface, this probably sounds like its “all about you” rather than the voice of the customer, and that’s a common mistake with do-it-yourself approaches to Value Creation Conversations. I’ve heard some really bad role-plays over the years! Instead, the questions you need to ask are actually all about them, yet they surface all the growth opportunities you could ever want.

The most important part of the art of VCCs when it comes to client retention is listening. With the right questions, it’s an opportunity to access your customers’ emotional decision-making influences as well as their logical ones, and finally understand how to get beyond logic and trigger deeper needs and desires. Their feedback is going to shape your business and improve your profitability, as you simultaneously learn how to serve them better and improve their bottom line. Win-win!

The good news is that you can implement this powerful customer loyalty strategy in less time than you spend on email every week. Stop telling customers you care. Show them you value a long term customer relationship by listening to their goals, dreams, and concerns and responding with resolutions to their problems. Take 90 minutes even just once a week to conduct a Value Creation Conversation, and you are virtually guaranteed to increase revenue, learn how to reduce costs that shouldn’t be there, and facilitate sustainable growth. Want to get there faster?  Blitz your VCCs in 90 days and you’ll clearly see the trends and commonalities that you need to take action on. All the how-to’s for conducting a great VCC are included in ProfitU – the systematic learn-by-doing profitability system that has quadrupled profits for my clients. If you’re looking to create higher profits by creating more value for your clients, let’s talk.

Do YOU get out to have executive-level conversations with your customers… as often as you should?

#1 Bestselling Author, International Speaker, and Accelerator Anne C. Graham is on a mission to help business leaders and their racehorses, colts, and plow horses work together to 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 book Profit in Plain Sight includes the 5-step proactive P.R.O.F.I+T Plan to do it, and her innovative online university ProfitU™ makes it easy to implement.  Connect with Anne on LinkedIn.