There is a saying, “the only thing that stays the same is change.”  In today’s world we are subject to change more than ever, because we now have much more choice than ever before. Through the internet, we now have access to unlimited amounts of information. We can Google something, and get thousands of opinions, options and choices. All this choice is both a good thing and a bad thing for us.

On the plus side, we like to have options for what we do, and freedom of choice is something we continue to fight for. On the negative side, too much choice and constant change can be very stressful and overwhelming.  So what is best? The simple answer is we need both, and how much of each really depends on the individual. Some people thrive on constant change and risk taking, whilst others prefer to maintain the status quo.

Focus on customer retention

So how is this relevant to business? Well, we need to recognise that our customers have unlimited access to buy products and services from anybody else, and in some cases, from anywhere in the world. No longer can we rely on the fact that as long as our customers are satisfied with what we do, they will stay with us. They will be constantly bombarded with new choices. Even if they have the most anti-change personality, can we really afford to just sit back and hope that they don’t go and try our competitors?

In his book, “Customer satisfaction is worthless, customer loyalty is priceless,”  sales guru Jeffery Gitomer identified that we have to work as hard on keeping our existing clients as we do getting new ones. This is a really important and often overlooked issue.

I had a client who was spending tens of thousands of pounds on generating new leads for their business. However, their customer base was not increasing, year on year. When we looked in detail at what was happening, we found that they were losing as many clients as they were bringing on. So we took some of the marketing budget away from lead generation and put it towards looking after our existing customers. This helped the business to start growing again through improved customer retention.

The “WOW factor”

So the key question to ask yourself is, WHY should your customers stay with you? The first answer is of course the product or service you supply. This must be first class, and give great value for money. In ACTION we call this Delivery Mastery, and it is this that stops your customers going elsewhere.  However, it is not enough to make your customers actively WANT to stay. The real key to building customer loyalty is going the extra mile for them, and creating the “WOW factor”.

So what is the “WOW factor?”  Think of it as the little extras that you do for your customers over and above the normal product or service you provide.  It is the things that you do that tap into the emotions of your customers, and leave a lasting impression.

A classic example is of a top hotel in New York that ensured its top guests’ rooms had their favourite flowers, wine and chocolates waiting for them when they arrived.  It also trained its staff to remember the little details that would make their guests’ stay so much more memorable.  These actions ensured that their customers would never even think of staying anywhere else.

Critical non-essentials

Paddi Lund, the most successful dentist in Australia, built his entire business on referrals and loyal customers. He called these extras “critical non-essentials” (CNE’s).  The key to their success is that they are not directly related to the product or service you are offering.  Just giving more or better service is not enough.  Your customers expect the best, so when you deliver it, they are just getting what they have paid for.

The WOW factor comes when you surprise the client with something different and unique to them.  Something that makes them not only say WOW to themselves, but makes them go and tell everybody they know about it.  An example of this happened to me playing golf at Celtic Manor. Being taken to the locker room and shown to my own personal locker with my name on it, two lockers away from Tiger Woods’ locker, was such a memorable moment that I tell people about it whenever I get the opportunity!

The key to successful CNE’s is to overcome the 3 reasons NOT to do them:

  1. Lack of ideas – give yourself time to think. Talk to your customers find out more about them and what interests and excites them. And speak to friends and colleagues too – it is always easier to come up with ideas for other people’s businesses than it is for your own.
  2. Lack of money – if you remember that your CNE’s are marketing, then you should be allocating some of your general marketing budget to them.  Also be creative –  some of the best CNE’s don’t cost a penny.
  3. Lack of time – always make sure that any CNE programme you start you can continue to do, however busy you become. You can do this by systemising the process, training and delegating responsibility to your team.

So now you know how to create the WOW factor, you just need to put it into ACTION, because if you don’t your competition might beat you to it!