Can fishing help you appreciate the value of customer retention? If you’re “just fishin’,” catch and release is OK. But if you want to eat or sell the fish you catch, you want to do the things that hook the biggest fish. That’s the way to think about changing from conquest sales to a focus on keeping the customers you have. Retained customers are the most profitable..

For our 2021 theme of “Creating Customer Centric Culture,” we started with ways to think about customer retention. In the first of the series, Bill Mayes’ provocative working title was “Why I Hate Customer Satisfaction but Like Satisfied Customers.” His point was surveys don’t help with why customers are not satisfied. In the second, Bill Hoeg defined a way to measure customer retention using your own data. He said retained customers are 5 times more profitable than new customers.

These 5 steps talk about how you can “catch and keep” customers.

1. Observe Retention & Loyalty in Real Time

Instead of asking customers how satisfied they are, measure customer retention by determining why customers take their business to competitors. For example, look for declining parts sales and fewer service visits to determine if customers are now buying machines from a competitor. Clues like this give you the opportunity to quickly fix a problem.

2. Think ‘Clients,’ Not ‘Customers’

Job #1 for the leader of an organization is to change or maintain the culture. To change a culture, words are important. We urge you to use “clients” instead “customers.” The latter is used in highly transactional businesses where there are more and more people who are in the buying pool. You may sell to consumers or rural lifestylers as an example.

“Client” implies a long-term relationship where the farmer’s needs come first. You become successful by understanding and helping make them successful. In the highly competitive and consolidating production ag business focus on solving their problems first, then your revenue and profits will increase.

3. Show Clients They Are Unique & Special

A Forbes survey said that 86% of people say an emotional connection with a customer service agent would make them continue to do business with the company. Consider ways to create a unique client experience — or help them think they are special. 

  • Set up sales and support teams who deliver personalized, up-to-date insights and reporting to your biggest clients.
  • Provide available information to clients where they are. Create video and on-line resources that give quick answers immediately, remotely and visually.
  • Contact clients in a disciplined fashion. Personal contact never fails, and one lesson learned from COVID is to continue to contact clients — ideally in person, but calls, emails and even video chats work too.
  • Respond quickly! Respond quickly! Respond quickly! 

4. Service Sells & Pays, Poor Service Does Neither

The Farm Equipment brand loyalty surveys show that a poor service or parts experience with a dealership is the main reason for switching dealerships or brands.

Providing great customer service is a huge — if not the #1 — factor that affects client retention. In our next article, we’ll define a customer service process with these key elements throughout the customer experience:

  1. Learn Failure: Take the call
  2. Consult: Determine the need and write the work order
  3. Produce: Complete the repair
  4. Deliver: Ensure a quality repair
  5. Follow-up: Will the client buy again?

5. Position Your Dealership to Over Deliver

Go the extra mile for your clients to differentiate your dealership. Try these ideas:

  • Send a discount on the anniversary of someone’s first day as a client. Better yet, go visit them.
  • Thank your clients in an email note and let them know you appreciate their business.
  • Create a customer loyalty program that includes inviting them to special education and social events as a thank you, and from which they learn.

To catch and keep customers, use your data to measure and manage retention, change your culture to focus on clients and make them feel special, define a robust customer service process and think about ways to over delivery. Do these things well and you’ll hook and take the big fish home.