In Customer Acquisition and Retention

A slew of bad customer service experiences have left me wondering if providing great customer service is a thing of the past. Then a positive experience shows me it isn’t a lost cause. Some industries are often at the top of the bad offender list—airlines, cable companies and banking. So why are some companies getting it right while others are failing miserably? After all, it doesn’t seem like it should be that hard. In a recent Q&A article with branding expert Jonathan Salem Baskin he expresses that bank marketing needs to focus more on improving customer interactions than building brand image. What he has to say makes a lot of sense and it doesn’t seem like it would take much effort to put his ideas into action for any industry.

For example, Baskin suggests focusing on improving the “touch points” with customers rather than expensive ad campaigns that attempt to build brand image. That is a very powerful statement. A recent stay of mine at a hotel provides an example of how to capitalize on every customer interaction. My room was not ready so the front desk offered to store my luggage and suggested I wait at the pool. It was a beautiful day and I was happy to spend it relaxing at the outdoor pool until rooms became available.  When I requested a phone call or text message to notify me when I could check in, the curt response was we do not have that capability here. Really? My hotel doesn’t have a phone? That one touch point provided a great opportunity for the hotel to make me a brand ambassador or turn me off. Even if they couldn’t provide that service, the delivery was even more critical. How about: “I wish we had a system in place to do so, but please check back with us in an hour. While you are waiting enjoy a complimentary beverage at our pool bar for your patience.”

Baskin has also patented the phrase “brand is behavior”.  A quote from his interview sums that up:  “So, I would say go and satisfy that customer, do a better job of understanding who they are, what they need and what they want. That will pay you back tenfold, a hundredfold, because the advocacy you’ll get from that customer will be huge.” Honestly, in my hotel example even if they didn’t offer me a perk a courteous response would have been enough for me.

Another example that fits well with Baskin’s approach is a story my colleague shared with me about his brother who as a physician holds an American Medical Association (AMA) credit card. The AMA card is tailored to meet the unique characteristics of a doctor’s lifestyle. There is not a traditional 30-day payment cycle or an aggressive collections process when payments are missed. The benefits are designed specifically with a doctor in mind. The AMA and issuing card companies have done an excellent job matching their product to what matters most to their customer.

In contrast, recently my favorite rewards credit card changed my benefits. They removed the ones that I considered to be the most valuable (in fact the only reason that I held the card and the only ones I used), added no perks and kept the annual fee the same. I’ve been a good customer for nearly 10 years, use the card frequently and pay my balance every month. I’m thinking about cancelling my card and searching for a new one all because my needs are no longer being met. It wouldn’t take much effort for my card company to retain me; they have simply lost sight of what is most important to their customers. Cue Baskin, “Do a better job of understanding who they are, what they need and what they want.”

When it comes to customer acquisition, once you have them you have to be able to retain them. Excellent customer service goes a long way toward retention and really isn’t all that complicated. I’ve come to expect better when it comes to good service. Baskin will be speaking at the BAI Retail Delivery conference in October. I’ll be at the show and will follow up in a future blog post about his approach to bank marketing.

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