Significant changes in customer retention rates have resulted in extraordinary improvements in profitability. One survey found that a 5% increase in customer retention consistently resulted in a 25% to 100% increase in profits. These almost unbelievable results would suggest that there must be a powerful force, (your emotional connection to your customer) which needs to be understood and effectively managed.
Creating a sustainable business model that focuses on loyalty would then suggest a linkage between all elements of a business system: your employees, customers, and stakeholders and the generation of profits. Providing customer value begins with a management philosophy that supports the cultivation of strong customer relationships and is implemented by having properly trained and motivated employees who know how to deliver value. Research has shown that customers who have an emotional connection and feel valued will repeatedly come back and do business with your organization as well as provide a strong referral base for new customers. Loyal customers repeatedly purchasing your product or service are what generate sustainable business growth and profit. However, your practices and processes that generate loyal customer relationships must be in place before you will begin to see a profitable impact. This model does not work in reverse, although by their actions many organizations appear to think the reverse is possible.
Building a sustainable business initiates a series of steps that will cascade through an organization as follows:
- Revenues and market share grow as your best customers (loyal customers) build repeat purchases and recommend you to others who also become loyal.
- Employee retention increases due to job pride and satisfaction, which in turn creates a loop that reinforces customer retention through familiarity and better service to the customers. Customers like doing business with people they know and your employees want to do the right things because it makes their job easier and far less stressful.
- As costs go down and revenues go up, profits increase. Improved profits provide resources to invest in employee development and compensation (further increasing retention), and in new features and products that enhance customer value. Profits are important not just as an end in themselves. They also allow the organization to improve value and provide additional incentive and reasons for employees, customers, and investors to remain loyal to your organization.
- Costs begin to shrink as the expense of acquiring and serving new customers and replacing old customers declines.
This model effectively provides insight to success versus failure in any organization. It is clear that the companies or organizations with the highest retention rates (retention of loyal customers) also earn the highest profits and maintain viability. As mentioned earlier, loyal customers reduce cost. In one study, it was found that in most service organizations word of mouth advertising accounted for one-third to one-half of all new customers. Relative customer retention also explains bottom line implications better than market share, scale, cost position, or any variables usually associated with a competitive advantage and business sustainability.
So what can you do differently for your business? Perhaps a good place to start would be to find better ways to create and sustain a loyal customer base. While there will be an investment, the advantages will be enormous for your customers, employees, and investors. Strictly from a financial perspective, the revenues increased from improved service tend to be 10 to 20 times the costs associated with fixing the problem. What strategies of sustainability do you need to implement today?
Tammy A.S. Kohl is President of Resource Associates Corporation. For over 30 years, RAC has specialized in helping businesses achieve high levels of excellence and success by adopting customer loyalty strategies as a critical success factor of organizational success. Learn how at www.resourceassociatescorp.com or contact RAC directly at 800.799.6227.