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Last weekend I was shopping at the Peninsula Farmer’s Market in Central Saanich, British Columbia. Gorgeous day, birds chirping, people laughing… perfect opportunity for a story on customer success.

I stopped at the local butcher’s booth and made my selection. I asked them, “Do you take cards?” I had plenty of cash but I always like to check. “We take cards at our main retail location, but we don’t take cards at the market right now. We still need to set up the swipe device that plugs into a smartphone.”

Oh, really?

I used to work in Merchant Services and since then my ears always perk up when I hear a statement like this. Credit Card processing is an industry with extremely high churn (~25%), where the emphasis is often on acquiring new accounts as quickly as possible. In a situation like this (merchant has one existing account with good sales volume on credit cards, looking to add a new device), I might have suggested creating an entirely new account to support the mobile device. Good for the merchant, even better for me.

This time I took a slightly different approach.

“You know,” I casually suggested, “you may want to speak with your account representative about simply adding a mobile device to your existing account, instead of creating an entirely separate account to accept cards at the Farmer’s Market. This way, you can leverage your existing high sales volume on credit cards at your retail location to get the same low rates everywhere.”

Put yourself in the shoes of their account representative and review your options:

From a tactical perspective, you could have encouraged them to open an entirely new account. You might sell them on the value of this solution with an additional startup fee, separate monthly fees for both the device and the service… as well as higher rates to go with fewer transactions through the mobile device compared to the retail location. In this way you would treat the mobile device as an entirely separate business that only just-so-happens to have the same owners as the brick and mortar store. You get another feather in your cap and your customer gets… a piece of hardware for their smartphone.

With a strategic approach, pause for a moment and consider the potential Lifetime Value of this customer. What steps you’ve taken to nurture their trust. How much time you’ve spent reviewing their current business structure. The energy you’ve committed to understanding their business goals. Once you look at all these factors, you begin to consider an entirely new set of questions:

  • “What can I do to make my customer’s experience as easy as possible – without sacrificing functionality?”
  • “If I look ahead 12 months… what would I like my customer to say to other business owners when they ask about my attention to detail?”
  • “When my customer’s customers interact with the mobile device at the Farmer’s Market, what emotions do I want to elicit?”

Now’s the time to explain to your customer why you recommend adding a device to their existing account versus creating an entirely new account to support a mobile device. How adding a mobile device will provide them with several advantages with none of the downsides (juggling two separate account numbers and logins, plus higher rates where you might be even more likely to see rewards cards). Forget the feather in the cap, you just sacrificed short-term gain for a more loyal customer.

This is what I live for – that Aha! moment when customers understand their business better than ever. You can almost see the light bulb ignite.

Tactics busies itself with the immediate, moment-by-moment, how-can-I-win-the-battle choices. Strategy is more concerned with the long-term view, recognizing that exceptional value for the customer means so much more than dollars and cents for you. Strategy also gives you the opportunity to gauge every decision based upon your team’s goals, your company’s goals, and your career goals. Try making a million tactical choices every day while keeping the same perspective.

The scenario described above could have taken place in any industry – the benefits of embracing Customer Success and reducing churn are by no means restricted to Merchant Services. It’s not about what you can gain but what you can give. You can start by creating an environment in which your customers, your vendors, and your associates can thrive.

Customer Success, Loyalty, Strategy