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Customer Retention

Take a Lesson from the Airline Industry

Airlines have learned that on-time departures are important to customers. Obviously, if a flight is delayed, this can lead to missed connections and other complications for customers. To boot, waiting to board a plane that should have taken off two hours before is flat-out not fun. Unfortunately, many airlines have measured this on-time issue by success in meeting the time the plane is supposed to leave the gate, not "wheels up." The result? Some passengers spend several hours waiting for takeoff in the cramped confines of a grounded plane!

Airlines have no desire to reduce gate use. Airports want to get as much use of their runways as they can and often overbook flights. As an engineering friend in the aviation field mentioned to me, you’d think the number of aircraft would be the limiting factor in deciding how many flights can be made. In fact, though, it’s the number of runways and locations to takeoff and land from. The end result is the airlines pack more and more people into the airplanes on time, and the airplanes leave the gate on time. Then, the passengers wait....and the airplane doesn’t take off.

The lesson is don’t become so focused upon one measure of customer satisfaction that it blinds you to common sense and to other factors which will conspire against it.

To get some great examples of "measuring sticks" for your customer retention research, go buy First, Break All The Rules, What The World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman.

What Gallup Says Customers Want -- Food for Thought

Incidentally, First, Break All The Rules, What The World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently mentions that Gallup has interviewed over a billion customers in an attempt to identify what customers want. Gallop has summarized customer desires into four key points:

  • Accuracy -- If a customer orders soup at a restaurant, he expects to get soup, not French fries.
  • Availability (Service) -- If the customer wants her check, she shouldn’t need to wait an unnecessarily long time before getting the waiter’s attention.
  • Partnership -- Customers want to feel employees are listening to and understanding them.
  • Advice -- Customers want you to help them solve their problems.

How each of these will play out within your individual company is different, however. How do your customers define Accuracy, Availability, Partnership, and Advice? When customers tell you what they want, into which of these broad categories does the desire fall? continued

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