A Marketers Approach to Retention: Part 3

February 27, 2012

By Lorrie Henry – Strategic Marketing and Retention Consultant – led marketing and/or retention efforts at three of the top five national banks after an earlier career path at three leading consumer package goods (CPG) marketing companies.

Last entry I talked about the marketer’s holistic view of retention addressing actions to the entire customer lifecycle, which quickly developed into how to build and execute a successful retention program.  This is the final segment discussing the importance of taking responsibility for retention across silos to generate higher customer satisfaction and higher corporate profitability.

Mission 3 – Taking Responsibility and Getting Results

Too often in organizations you hear the contradicting phrases “it’s not my job” followed quickly by “somebody’s got to do it”.  That’s a set up for customer-losing problems that nobody will reach out to fix.  In contrast, when approaching retention from a holistic marketing perspective, and choosing the most important issues from a customer and profitability standpoint, we took the initiative and often made that “somebody” us, from a leadership and often from a hands-on perspective. And we could not do everything or perhaps anything alone.  We had to develop critical partnerships with our business partners in Sales, Finance, Pricing, Legal, Compliance, Risk, Operations, Marketing, and more to make programs work and to make change happen.

 Enabling Asking Customers to Stay

We led a massive cross-functionally integrated process improvement informed by our customer research and business analyses.  People in different departments than our own had to change their processes and in some cases their jobs to make this work.  One step of the new process took talking to 30 people to find someone who could and would do it, but it was a critical function.  And it was worth it – we were able to save customers who had already decided to leave.  This program generated hundreds of millions of dollars in saved balances annually, as well as increasing customer satisfaction!  As part of this initiative, we re-wrote customer service letters and turned them into retention-oriented service tools without any increase in cost to the company other than our time and marketing expertise.  Letters that had once politely requested the customer to “sign here to close your account” were now getting customers to call us, thus enabling us to ask how we could help them to stay.

 Working with Customers, One on One to Retain and Grow

Our specialized retention call center was my leading laboratory when it came to direct customer interactions, continuously tracking and improving.  We did everything we could to “show our customers the love” and retain their business, while still keeping an eye on profitably growing the business.  And we had and/or worked to develop and enhance the systems and process tools we needed to do it.  As we became more successful, other call center teams adopted our approaches.  And they were critical partners in the process improvement program above.

 Changing Perspectives

The perspective of people in our company had to shift from the emphasis on acquisition to one of acquisition and retention.  And we needed to increase retention through modification, rather than selling the same or similar product again to the same customer with new terms.  Financial analyses prepared by our business partner demonstrated how much less expensive it was to retain or modify an account versus opening (and incenting) a new one.  We used these data and analyses to become relentless advocates to do what was right for the customer and the bank.  That included modifying incentive programs away from a new account emphasis as well as developing systematic abilities to enable retention.  And we helped make these things happen across silos by leading several projects and championing others – a theme you’ve heard before.

 Retention Is Everyone’s Job

To maximize results, we needed to spread the holistic retention gospel throughout the organization.  Our team took on this task with relish and had a grand time doing it!


Footnote – After three posts you can see that retention is not a quick and easy task, but I hope you also see it can be much less than wrestling a 900-pound gorilla.  Do the right things for the customer, keep it logical and that gorilla will soon be working for you!