Google+ The Marketing Survivalist: The Trials of the Customer Loyalty Specialist

The Trials of the Customer Loyalty Specialist

With the economy’s small glimmers of hope sometimes seeming like nothing more than an oasis on the horizon, many companies are starting to turn inward toward their existing customer base. Yes, we all know the mantra, “It’s more expensive to bring in a new customer than to keep an existing one.” However, going out and getting the new ones is more fun, so many of us haven’t paid a lot of attention to the base.

Some companies even go so far as to hire (often from internal ranks) someone for the role of Customer Loyalty Specialist. If you’re one of these people and you’re in an organization that has traditionally revered new customers and celebrated the “big deal” then you have your work cut out for you.

I have two suggestions that may make your life a bit easier.

Define Success
Like all areas of marketing and sales, you need to define how you will be measured so you will recognize success when it happens. Is it customer sat ratings? Repeat business? For those of you in the software business, is it percent of customers on maintenance plans? Referrals from customers? Number of customers willing to be references?

Chances are the executives of the company are most interested in revenue. But, the danger in leaving it at that is that your Customer Loyalty Specialist ends up as nothing more than a glorified Existing Customer Sales rep. If all you do is carry a quota for repeat business, customers will see through your agenda fairly quickly and it will do little to improve loyalty.

You need to take it to the next level and decide what metrics actually help drive revenue. For example, in many businesses, more satisfied customers are likely to bring in more repeat business and referrals. Therefore, customer sat ratings make sense as a metric for the customer loyalty initiative.

But, driving sat ratings is something the Customer Loyalty Specialists can’t do on their own. It takes commitment from the entire organization, and that leads to the next suggestion.

Executive Buy-In
Customer Loyalty programs will not work without executive buy-in. For example, if you’re trying to drive customer sat numbers you need executives that will back you when you need to address the short-comings of the company. These executives need to agree to standards of conduct for interactions with customers, and if anyone in the company treats the customer in a sub-standard way, they need to hold them accountable. (This isn’t about the customer always being right. It’s more about treating the customer with dignity and doing what you promised.)

Of course, the executives of the company will be interested in the bottom-line numbers as well as top-line revenue. They may not have an attitude of “we’ll do whatever it takes to make it right” because that isn’t always possible or economically feasible. Sometimes, you have to admit it’s not a good customer/vendor relationship and even “fire” your customer.

But, on the other hand, the executives can’t cower behind the front line Loyalty Specialists either. When the company needs to admit that they messed up, or a tough message needs to be shared with a customer, the executives should take center stage.

It can be tough to get executive buy-in, but it’s absolutely necessary. To ensure this happens, keep the execs involved at every step in the process. Bring them into the discussion on how sat should be measured. Document your customer loyalty plans and keep them in front of company executives. Hold regular briefings so that you can share the successes and discuss the obstacles. And, of course, measure everything.

Discussion Question:
Here’s a final question for my readers. Earlier, I cautioned you against measuring this role only in terms of revenue. However, do you believe that the Customer Loyalty Specialist should carry a quota, or should the Customer Loyalty Specialist role be separate from the role of an installed base sales person?

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