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The key question to determine customer loyalty

About five years ago, George Thompson, President of Headcan Health Education Media, gave me a reprint of a Harvard Business Review (HBR) article that he was exuberant about. We were focussing on client satisfaction and the article—The One Number You Need to Grow— cut right to the chase (you will have to pay Harvard Business Review if you want to read the whole thing). George’s enthusiasm and the message still resonate. In fact, I believe I have integrated the notion into my very core.

Simply stated, one can take a very blunt and important measure of customer loyalty by asking two simple questions: the first about the quality of their customer experience and the second about whether they would purchase again/ recommend you (your product or service). The results of these two questions enable you to zero in on your most valued customers and leverage your sweet spot.

Today I was reminded of this concept –repeat customers who are willing to recommend your product/ service—as I read a report from Upwardly Mobile, Inc. This US group has created an online career management system by reverse engineering the networking steps taken by elite professionals (those earning $200K+) to build their careers.  See their just released report on networking and career advancement. The key message here is that networking is not optional for career/ business success. Furthermore, it is about farming all the time rather than hunting in desperation when the economy drags your sales down or you find yourself job searching.

It strikes me that it all comes down to the same thing. For long term success, it doesn’t matter as much that you have 300 people in your LinkedIn network (though the optics are good) or that you have many customers with whom you have a shallow relationships. What matters more is whether these people will actually stick their neck out and recommend you to others.

Whether you are building and nurturing your network or focussed on client satisfaction and loyalty, here are a few points I believe in:

  • Help your network/ customer base without attachment to results or payback;
  • Be attached to what your network/ customers do for you; if there is no return over time, stop investing in them (hey, if Seth Godin can give contradictory advice, why can’t I?);
  • Refer clients to your competitors (if your competitor will serve them much better based on a specific need they have that you won’t serve as well);
  • Be brave. Once you feel there is some trust, ask your contact/client/customer if they will recommend you. If they aren’t comfortable recommending you, find out what their discomfort is and what you can do to turn it around.

And remember: to accelerate your business/ career/ life, there is only one number you need to grow. Don’t wait for a rainy day.

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