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Customer retention or customer acquistion: Are you playing the odds?

Posted by Carole Mahoney on 9/18/12 9:22 PM

This might be a bit of a stretch, and it might be a bit of a rank because I am still irked by the Patriots non-win on Sunday. But in the 5 minutes of time I spent listening to post-game analysis one thing became apparent to me. The Pats played conservatively, they were trying not to lose the game. And because of that they lost.

The mistake they made is one that I see many businesses make with their customer relationships.

Playing not to lose means you miss the opportunities to win.

The finite difference between playing not to lose, and playing to win would seem to be just a matter of jargon. Both mean the same thing right? Not when it comes to execution and executive decision making. And that takes things beyond just customer service.

Are you trying to win with your customers, or just trying not to lose them?

Customer Acquisition or Retention for Growth?

I wonder, when an airline increases their bag fees and cuts out snacks and meals on flights, or no longer offers free wi-fi; are they trying not to lose (money), or are they trying to gain new confidence with their current customers? (and then they spend millions on advertising and affiliate programs and online interactive booking tools to get new customers because they keep ticking off the current ones)

And what happens when a competing airline finds other ways to cut costs without cutting customer service? (answer: the first airline loses their customers, the second airline keeps their customers, gains the other airlines new customers, and all those customers tell everyone on Twitter how awesome the second airline's customer service is. The second airline grows 3 fold...)

I am sure that those executives looked at the numbers, and like Belichick who took the safer alternative with Gostkowski's foot, saw a cost cutting measure to boost profits. (btw- Gostkowski had an 80% chance of winning the game according to the numbers. But if there is one thing I remember from my stats teacher- never put money on the direction of a football)

Airlines are too easy of an example. Let's use a consulting firm who writes a blog post every day, tweets every hour, connects with new people on Linkedin daily. They generate 100s of new inbound leads. They makes dozens of pitch's and several new sales. Then they stop selling and trying and 6 months later the client is gone.

Why spend all that effort into starting a new relationship if you are not winning them over more and more after they say yes the first time?

As my beloved Patriots head into practice this week, I would encourage them with these words from 'Gronk' in the locker room after the game, "We have to go play stronger and harder, and not just in the 4th quarter. Just staying in the game is not good enough."

Are you struggling to stay in the game with your business by playing the odds on keeping the customers you have now? Is that enough for your business to sustainably grow without a constant and exhausting effort?

Are you playing not to lose, or playing to win?

Topics: customer service, customer retention, customer acquistion, customer relationships