This great real-life lesson on "How to focus on your customers" was contributed by my good friend Paul Kaerger:
"My father-in-law had an issue with his van recently and it had to be recovered to the garage for some work. It took over five hours to get the insurance company and the recovery company to agree to take the van because of an internal mix up over the agreement between them.
We were on the telephone for a lot of those five hours, having to provide additional information and listen to various updates. The van was finally picked up but they have certainly lost a customer.
They forgot that their first duty was to help out their customer ... instead of making him wait while they sorted out their own problems.
It is a common problem with businesses when things go wrong. They focus so much on the fixing the internal problem that they forget that there is a customer on the end of the line.
My advice is to always deal with the customer, make sure they are happy and then clean up the mess afterwards. That way, it will be cheaper (less time on the phone to a customer) and protect business (the customer will not cancel their policy and tell everyone about the experience)."
Paul is a business consultant based in Leicester. His passion is helping your business evolve and grow. You can reach Paul by email on: firstname.lastname@example.org
Keeping in touch with customers doesn't require brain surgery but often has a huge impact on customer retention. Here's an example of where a couple of companies might have kept me as a client if they'd made more of an effort to keep me happy.
Over the last few weeks I've finally finished consolidating my pensions into my SIPP (Self Invested Personal Pension). This means transferring underperforming pension funds into another pension so I can manage it myself.
But the thing that struck me about the process was this: at no time did my two old pension providers ask me why I was transferring and/or whether there was anything they could do to convince me not to switch.
In fact they'd done nothing other than send me me annual statements about how my pensions were doing, which was usually depressing news anyway.
Now it's possible that I might have stayed with them if I'd felt like a valued customer. But, just like most financial services companies, they treated me just like a number. They didn't even attempt to give me a reason not to close my accounts.
To be honest, I've never been a demanding customer. I guess I did like most folks and just expected that they'd look after my pension money and make it grow through sound investments. But they didn't even do that. Worse still is they didn't encourage me to review my pension investments, didn't invite me to consider additional services, didn't give me any idea what was going on with my money.
In contrast, my new pension provider gives me plenty of information about what's happening with my money, they give tips and help on making investment choices, provide updates on market conditions and also let me know what's happening with my pension fund. Further to that they don't bombard me with loads of paper, which I like very much.
Now I know that the features of my new pension provider are nothing technologically advanced but they do the simple stuff very well indeed. And they do it just because I'm a client and want me to stay that way.
So, don't do what Scottish Widows and NPI did, which was to completely ignore your clients. Instead keep in touch with your customers and let them know that they're valued. It could be as simple as a monthly 'insider tips' email but it may mean a whole lot to those who buy from you.
More to the point, if you want to keep your customers then make them feel valued and informed. It's easier than you might think.