Take This Radical Approach to Customer Retention to Boost Employee Morale — And Your Profit
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Take This Radical Approach to Customer Retention to Boost Employee Morale — And Your Profit

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There are few guarantees in business, but this one is certain: If you don't keep customers, you won't have a business for long. Yet, at a time when most companies are desperately trying to maintain customer loyalty (retention is more profitable than acquisition, after all), there's often a missing link in their efforts: Understanding the powerful connection between customer satisfaction and employee engagement — and how to unlock it.

As a Chief People Officer currently overseeing my company's customer organization, I've seen first-hand how connected they truly are. At its most basic, losing customers can have a direct impact on employee morale and even lead to regrettable talent turnover. But there's more nuance to this connection: nearly everything employees do has the potential to deeply impact customers. In turn, customer feedback and outcomes can have a powerful effect on an employee's sense of purpose, achievement and satisfaction.

Related: 7 Surefire Ways to Turn Your Low Customer Retention Rates Around

I've witnessed how establishing a customer-centric approach across the entire organization can lead to growth opportunities that benefit both employees and customers. But to get there, businesses need to leverage that connection by making customer success the forefront of every employee's experience. Here's how.

Make customer success everyone's responsibility

Most companies take a siloed approach to customer success, relegating it to a single department, while others remain largely insulated from customer interaction. But I've come to realize that the more we empower all of our cross-functional teams to contribute to customer success, the more purposeful, impactful and engaging their roles become, and the more they can drive customer loyalty and retention.

For a more holistic approach, I am a fan of the bowtie model. In contrast to the traditional marketing funnel, which ends when a customer converts, the bowtie provides a more end-to-end representation of the customer journey. It's a better way to ensure everyone in the company is maximizing engagement with the customer over the long term — whether through strategic ongoing communication and marketing efforts or more integrated processes and practices designed to deepen this relationship.

One way we do this at my company is by encouraging every department to evaluate every task — and every ask — from the perspective of how it benefits the customer. Whether it's marketing, sales, product or engineering, this filter is applied to all decision-making. Of course, we also look to metrics like Customer Satisfaction Score, customer retention, and revenue expansion with existing customers to ensure our efforts translate into results.

Supercharge customer touchpoints

I recently traveled overseas to meet with a customer, and as I was leaving, their CFO turned to me and said something I'll never forget: "Don't get me fired." It's a powerful reminder that our view on customer success must be broader than just ensuring product integration or stability. Everything we do has a ripple effect on their company's success, which can impact their personal reputation, too.

The concept of radical empathy isn't new in customer service. Cultivating a deeper understanding of customer needs is crucial for effective product development, marketing and sales, but it can easily get lost once a customer is onboarded. Building more proactive touchpoints with customers —and even baking them into the early stages of product development — can help overcome this oversight.

For us, that means attending industry events and building out strategic channels and information-sharing communities to better understand their sticking points. We've also established customer segments and verticals to identify and interact with the unique needs of different types of customers to deliver a personalized service approach. When we understand how customers are using our product — and particularly their pain points — we can better target everything from our marketing and sales campaigns to all product-focused initiatives

Everyone in our organization knows customer retention is a team sport. Reaching out to customers to help solve product issues or when launching something new is not only possible but preferable. That's precisely why we launched a customer retention program that treats flight risks as a pipeline and leverages tightly coordinated collaboration across departments to deliver impact to those customers.

Most importantly, these frequent and proactive touchpoints also allow us to learn what is working for our customers, which we've seen be a powerful motivator for our team.

Related: 3 Ways Founders Can Connect With Their Customers to Drive Sales

Don't overlook the link between employee experience and customer experience

Being on the receiving end of an exceptional customer experience can radically shift the way we perceive a business. It turns out that when an employee has a hand in making that happen, it can be just as impactful for them.

This shouldn't come as a surprise: today's employees are looking for purpose in their work. Who doesn't want to make a difference in the lives of others? Connecting this desire to customer success initiatives only makes sense — it improves the ability to deliver on customer promises and makes the workplace more satisfying for all.

And I believe organizations can take this connection a step further: pouring the same energy into employee experience that they do in fulfilling customers. In one of my previous roles, we would actively measure customer retention against employee retention and found a strong correlation between the two. These results were interesting but not shocking: prioritizing employee experience leads to more engaged employees, who, in turn, are motivated to create better customer experiences. Simply put, boosting satisfaction in one camp can effectively raise retention and productivity levels for both.

Of course, this balance isn't always easy to get right. But in my experience, incremental improvements are what add up over time. Starting small is better than not at all. At the end of the day, the more your employees know, understand and care about your customers, the better they'll serve them (and the more they'll enjoy the results) — regardless of the role they are in. And that's a true win-win for the bottom line.

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