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Does anyone have any good customer retention strategies to recommend?

Particularly interested in initiatives that corporate finance can drive, but any proven winners would help.

Answers

Chris Holtzer
Title: Senior Manager - Strategic Analysis
Company: Sargento
(Senior Manager - Strategic Analysis, Sargento) |

CRM system tools help the Sales team build and maintain relationships, but also allow create a repository of information that others may not know, can be very beneficial. I don't have a specific action for you, because it will depend heavily on your business/ go to market strategies, but just having a repository of that type of data will allow you to really beef up your financial reporting by adding objective data points on customers and their impact on your business.

It has the added benefit of bridging the communication gap that can exist between finance and sales. It makes a boring P&L more meaningful to those outside of finance.

Anonymous
(Director, Finance and Accounting) |

This is stating the obvious, but treat the customer as you would like to be treated. There are places that I will not visit because I was treated badly. I also think that periodically sending out surveys to current and past customers (assuming that you have a customer data base) will provide feedback on where improvements are needed.

As an example, I recently had lunch with one of our fairly new sales reps. He told me about a customer that he had been calling on who was ignoring him. He got some feedback that the customer was upset because no one had called on him in a long time and had taken his business elsewhere. Good information to know and it pointed out to me the need for the company to develop a better process of keeping in touch with customers when there was a change in sales reps.

Perhaps this would had come out in a survey if my company did customer surveys.

James Lum
Title: CFO
Company: GuideStar
(CFO, GuideStar) |

Churn is too often overlooked and its costs severely underestimated. It often gets dropped because everyone is so worried about new customers and not saving old ones. The best solution I've seen so far is too name someone Churn Czar and empower them to do what it takes.

Topic Expert
Len Green
Title: Performance Improvement Consultant and E..
Company: Haygarth Consulting LLC
LinkedIn Profile
(Performance Improvement Consultant and ERP Strategist, Haygarth Consulting LLC) |

Two approaches may work, but first....gather and analyze data to prove your hypothesis/provide facts that quantify the impact. Such as: net margin lost on inactive customers, accounts who switch to the competition, impact on production demand (e.g. higher overhead costs on remaining production).

Then, two approaches:
1. Triage on existing clients that may be at risk
2. Preventative processes for new customers

Once you have a strategy and define underlying processes, then you can consider systems to help you.

EMERSON GALFO
Title: CFO
Company: C-Suite Services
LinkedIn Profile
(CFO, C-Suite Services) |

At the most basic level, it is my opinion that there should be NO customer retention "strategy". If you think of it is a strategy, then you have already FAILED (or failing) on any of the THREE most important things in business. PRODUCT/SERVICE, SERVICE (customer) and PRICE. Customer retention is the BY PRODUCT if you provide excellence on at least two of the three factors. Any "strategy" only MASKS your core problem/s and YOU ARE NOT ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTIONS. You are not looking for ways to improve what you should be providing in the first place.

Focus on the three and you won't need a customer retention "strategy".

As for your concern, ANY finance initiative that will improve service or price (assuming you can't affect product) will be of great help.

A few examples at the top of my head....
1. improving billing and collection INTERACTION. It is more on the TONE of the interaction.
2. Customer engagement or experience is key. (may be part of #1)
3. providing non-standard or extra information to customers.
4. working with sales for pricing breaks either in general or for loyal customers.

A good exercise would be to put yourself in your customer's shoes and do a wishlist of what would be great to have (even unusual to have among your competitors...differentiation). Then affect the changes where you can affect or initiate them. Better yet...ask them.

Again, to reiterate my point of view, these should not be a "strategy/ies" but something you should be doing and improving in the first place. Asking for strategy is asking the wrong question/s.

Daniel Roche
Title: Mentor in Residence
Company: Johns Hopkins Universit
(Mentor in Residence, Johns Hopkins Universit) |

Spend time with your customers.
Know their problems (better than they do, if possible).
Make sure your solutions / products solve their problems (collaborate with them if possible).
Recognize that this is very hard work.

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