Posts Tagged ‘client retention’

Set Your Brand Apart: Little Extras Make a Big Difference in Customer Retention

Thursday, May 15th, 2014
The little things add up

The little things add up

Here’s a little dose of reality: no one ever meets the expectations of their customers. You can exceed those needs or your can fall short, and it’s often the little things that add up to make a big difference.

The PRSA Counselors Academy Spring Conference was held last week, May 4-6, in Key West, Florida. Paula Whittington, VP of agency relations at BurrellesLuce, attended Stan Phelps’s keynote. Phelps, who is the founder of 9 INCH Marketing and the author of the popular Goldfish Trilogy (recently completed with What’s Your Golden Goldfish), discussed all the ways to make the little things add up in your favor to strengthen retention rates.

Phelps pointed out some brands that have good customer retention, like Wells Fargo, which obtains 80 percent of their business from current customers because they frequently upsell more products, making their clients less likely to leave. Another heavyweight in retention and acquisition is Southwest Airlines. During a time when airlines started charging for bags and continuing to charge fees for ticket changes, Southwest advertised free checked bags and no change fees. Finally there’s Zappos, which invests back in its customer experience with free shipping, returns for up to a year, and an easy exchange policy.

Differentiation is about the little things; while 80 percent of companies believe they provide a superior experience, only 8 percent of their customers agree. Here are a few tactics – and real-world examples –  from Phelps for setting your brand apart.

The Throw-In/ Add-on: Throw in something small but restorative to really ramp up customer experience. DoubleTree Hotels offers warm, fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies that make their guests feel welcome.

Sampling: This is the classic ice cream shop tactic, but you can take it to the next level like Izzy’s Ice Cream, which gifts a free scoop of a new flavor to try, and will also tweet or text when a customer’s favorite flavor arrives. Personalization and generosity go a long way in customer acquisition and retention.

First/last impressions: Enhance a client’s experience with first and last impressions. They’re the most lasting and visceral, so don’t overlook them. The Hard Rock Hotel offers Fender guitars and headphones in the rooms, as well as a TV channel featuring guitar lessons.

Pay it forward: Offer to do something nice for people, even if it means doing something for free. Unemployed, but really need your suit cleaned? Plaza Cleaners in Portland, Oregon will clean that suit for free. And Discount Tire will repair a flat tire for nothing. Paying it forward creates goodwill to create loyal future customers.

Add on a service: Like paying it forward, you can also create goodwill by providing more than just a basic service, like Safelite AutoGlass. Not only do they send you a picture of the technician coming to repair your windshield, but they’ll clean and vacuum your car during the ten minutes it takes for the windshield epoxy to harden and cure.

Follow Up: Handwritten thank you notes always go a long way. But it’s easy for follow-ups to slip through the cracks when something goes wrong, and that’s the most vital time to make an overture. Nurse Next Door, a home care service, does this with humble pie: if there’s a mistake, the company owns up to it, and delivers a fresh baked apple pie as an apology. Nurse Next Door estimates that the $1,500 they spend on pies annually saves them about $100,000 in business retention.

At the very least, think of Walt Disney, who in 1957 decided to have a parade in Disneyland every day in December. This cost him the modern-day equivalent of $4 million, and his financial advisors were against the idea, but daily parades survive to this day, the most frequently asked question at Disneyland is “What time does the parade start?”

Tactics that set your brand apart should be a signature product or service of your brand, and really make you different. It might cost you money, but if done right, the benefits will be more of an investment than a cost.

It’s Public Relations Award Season!

Monday, May 17th, 2010
Flickr Image: Mags_cat

Flickr Image: Mags_cat

My email inbox, probably not unlike yours, is full of calls to enter local PR awards.  For instance, the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) DC Metro’s Silver Inkwell entries are due June 10. Entries for the National Capital Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America’s (PRSA-NCC) Thoth Awards are due June 18. To top it off, Washington Women in Public Relations’ (WWPR) next professional development lunch is on writing successful PR award entries.  And that is just the regional events. Nationally, PRSA, IABC, the Association for Women in Communications (AWC), PR News, PRWeek, and others have awards programs too.

Although entering takes time and cash, winning one of these awards helps prove the value of your hard work throughout the year. “Whether you’re an internal communicator, media relations specialist, work in interactive communications, or any other communication discipline, there is nothing like being acknowledged by your peers, so I urge my communication colleagues to enter. It’s a terrific way to showcase your work, as well as advance the profession,” says Shonali Burke, ABC, president, IABC-DC Metro.

Recently I asked Lindsey Rose, senior counselor, Carmichael Lynch Spong (a client of BurrellesLuce) why she thought it was important for industry professionals to submit to these types of awards. She explains how PR industry awards offer several perks for your clients, your agency and you, as a practitioner:

Your clients: Awards give them recognition for their accomplishments and help raise visibility and drive excitement for their programs. Awards solidify clients’ achievements in their industry and help bring their stories to life. Award summaries also often help clients merchandise their communications efforts/case studies within their internal organization.

Your agency: Awards showcase your leadership through best practices outlined in your submissions. Awards celebrate your relationship with your client and reinforce the client/agency partnership (and oftentimes further reinforce clients’ ongoing investment in your work). Winning awards can also open doors and help bring your agency to the table for new business opportunities.

You: As a practitioner, awards showcase your strategic capabilities from research and planning to execution and generating results. Compiling awards is great practice for any PR practitioner – no matter what your level. Winning awards is even more rewarding.

You can get hints and tips for preparing your awards entries on many of your local and national professional organization’s websites. Some great resources include:

  1. PRSA offers advice on preparing their Silver Anvil Awards on their website.
  2. IABC has a webinar on entering the Gold Quill Awards.

Personally, from having judged several awards programs and chaired a judging committee, I know the key to winning is evaluation and measurement from beginning to end of the project or campaign. The best well-written press release will not win an award without showing how the release had impact. The key is to start early, ideally from the beginning of your project or campaign, and continue to document and save information throughout the program.

So now that PR awards season is well underway, how are you preparing? Are there any suggestions you can add for making the most out of your submission?

The Importance Of Personal Relationships In Client Retention

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

The Importance of “It’s a jungle out there.” That’s a phrase most commonly used to describe an unfamiliar and potentially dangerous environment. In today’s business world, the “jungle” could just as easily describe how competitive the modern marketplace has become. Due to a myriad of factors, including the ease of data transfers as well as the decreased reliance on printing and manufacturing, it is not unusual for companies to have ten times as many competitors as they had just ten years ago.

So how can you distinguish yourself in a marketplace where you may no longer be top dog?

One way is through the establishment and maintenance of personal relationships with your clients. This can transcend and insulate your company against the latest industry trend or even a competitive marketing campaign.

In her “Developing Personal Relationships with Clients” blog entry, Alyssa Gregory says that the key to these relationships is communication. She writes, “Just like any relationship, the driving factor behind this is communication, whether it’s online or off.”

Some ways to keep the lines of communication open and develop a relationship with clients:

  • Keep in touch with your clients and check in with them often and unsolicited.
  • Feel free to “take their temperature” as you can best gauge their satisfaction this way.
  • Try to prove yourself helpful.
  • Show prescience and spot possible needs before they’ve even alerted you to them. 

Theo McLanahan writes in Why Communicating With Clients is an Essential Business Skill: “Keeping an open line of communication with clients is extremely important. This way you can keep them well informed.” He goes on to say that you should “remember that your client can’t physically see you, so communicating frequently will help calm any concerns they might have.”

I propose that making a point of communicating with your clients regularly should be common practice. Do not wait until they reach out to you. Be proactive because not only can you save time and aggravation for them, but you’ll be saving a client for yourself and your company.

Do Modern Businesses Still Appreciate a Phone Call?

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010

Today there are so many ways for an individual to avoid human contact. Why bother calling information when you can look up an address on your iPhone? There’s really no need to call Domino’s when you can go online, click on your favorite toppings and pay with your credit card. And let’s face it, it’s so much easier to shoot off a text than to risk getting stuck in a 20 minute conversation with somebody you’re kind of “meh” about anyway.

If the modern world is all about immediacy and accessibility, then why bother using the phone at all?

Well, there’s an integral part of human contact and interaction that’s lost when you BadDay@Workcircumvent the conversation. It may be “easier” to send an email, but you’re leaving the recipient’s interpretation up to chance. Heinz Tschabitscher discusses email communication in his blog post, What Can Be Misunderstood Will Be Misunderstood.

“The lack of nonverbal clues makes it easy to misinterpret something,” says Heinz, “but we’re not careful enough to avoid these misinterpretations because email feels so instant, easy and accessible…”

In client services, not only can you best gauge the client’s mood on the phone, but you can help ensure that they will correctly interpret your own.

The ideal choice is to make the call. In the India PR Blog, Palin Ningthoujam writes that

“You can explain issues and things in proper and in length over the phone than on email.”

On the phone you can explain yourself fully and deal immediately with your client’s needs.

Best of all, you’re in complete control of how you express yourself and by proxy, how you represent your company. Don’t risk the relationships you’ve built with your valued customers just because you choose the “easy” email over the personal phone call. They are your clients; this is your business; and they deserve it.

Do you prefer to send an email or place a call when interacting with your clients? As a client, how do you feel when you receive a call from an account manager or client services representative? Depending on which side of the conversation you’re on, how do think these interactions affect the business relationship? Please share your ideas with the readers of BurrellesLuce Fresh Ideas.

The Importance of Customer Relationship Management

Friday, March 6th, 2009

by Cathy Del Colle*
According to Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, “customer relationship management (CRM) consists of the processes a company uses to track and organize its contacts with its current and prospective customers. CRM software is used to support these processes; information about customers and customer interactions can be entered, stored and accessed by employees in different company departments. Typical CRM goals are to improve services provided to customers, and to use customer contact information for targeted marketing.”

“While the term CRM generally refers to a software-based approach to handling customer relationships, most CRM software vendors stress that a successful CRM effort requires a holistic approach.[1] CRM initiatives often fail because implementation was limited to software installation, without providing the context, support and understanding for employees to learn, and take full advantage of the information systems.[2′]” 

Having access to all of our client’s information from any computer in the office has proven to be essential at BurrellesLuce. We use an application called Siebel as our CRM tool.  Siebel has allowed our staff to react to a client’s recent inquiry quickly, as well as revise their account efficiently, all while updating the account activities in one location.  Getting into the habit of using a CRM program certainly pays off in the end.  It’s a permanent record of client activities. 

As long as you have a computer, you can answer a client’s question and/or confirm something for your company’s internal processes.  And if you’re meeting with a client in their office, you no longer need to call into your office to ask a colleague a question about that client’s account.  With remote access, you can log into your CRM program and review the account activity with them in person.  Now that’s customer service.  At BurrellesLuce, we’ve embraced this enhancement and have become a CRM company indeed!

*Bio: During my 22 years with BurrellesLuce I’ve heard and seen a lot in the way of media monitoring and measurement. I originally started as a sales associate specializing in fashion and higher education. Now, I am the SVP of client services. Over the years I’ve developed a close relationship with many PR and marketing professionals. When I worked in the nation’s capital, I sat on the board of Washington Women in Public Relations, where I also served as membership coordinator and, in 1995, as president. Today, I remain an honorary member of that organization. I continue to enjoy meeting with clients and assisting them in any way. LinkedIn: cdelcolle; Twitter: @BurrellesLuce; Facebook: BurrellesLuce