Whose Responsibility is Customer Retention?

Marketers are good at running multi-channel campaigns but they cannot work in siloed isolation if they want to keep hold of customers. Marketers must work with every customer-facing function across the organisation to gather the insight and provide the feedback that helps the collective improve its performance. This virtuous communications loop not only builds trust with customers – if an organisation is giving customers a great experience, staff will feel better about their own jobs.

Most interactions and communications fail because no one department consolidates insight into customer behaviour. So before that insightful gold dust disappears into the cracks between silos, I’m casting my vote in favour of marketing as the owner of customer retention. If marketers have insight, they can act, educate and work with the broad-church of customer services, call centres, helpdesks, claims, accounts, support, branch and all the other customer-facing functions whose daily interactions are an invaluable source of that insight. No one entity owns the customer, but everyone in the organisation is responsible for the customer’s experience. If the marketer is not engaged with brand’s own customer-facing channels, where on earth are they getting customer insight? My guess is they’re guessing. There are gaps in communications and they’re full of gold dust.

No snakes, just a lot of ladders

The customer will always appreciate – and is more likely to stick with – a brand that provides a rewarding interaction, but it has to be consistent. It has to be the same relevant experience – regardless of whether the customer calls in, deals with a mobile app, or visits a branch. It’s like snakes and ladders: have a great experience and advance one level, have a poor experience and the brand will have to build that trust all over again (if you are lucky enough to be offered a second chance). With the right listening tools marketing can automate the human touch, ensuring the brand speaks with one voice across all the touch points, harmonising the experience. For instance, if the customer is on a mobile app and is recognised and served with relevant information derived from everything the brand knows about that individual (what we call actionable insight) that is marketing leaping rungs. Businesses don’t do that at all well today, but this is already what the customer expects – and very soon it will be what the brand expects from its marketing.

The marketer as cartographer

Right now it is possible for a marketer to improve customer retention with actionable insight that is at once personalised and generalised. Brands can monitor customer communities for patterns of behaviour that help them provide the right products, services and policy, right down to mapping the actions of individuals to ensure direct customer contact stays relevant and useful.

This isn’t some kind of journey map based on past experience and assumption, this is a journey map based on actual events as they happen, allowing the marketer to act quickly to bring relevance to the conversation. Relevance is what keeps the customer engaged and engagement is the key to driving loyalty. Marketers must take the lead in making this happen, but to do this marketers need to think beyond just marketing and embrace the new era of customer engagement.