Lessons Learned on Creating Lasting Relationships with Your Clients

September 29, 2014

Todd Piett

A recent advertisement from USAA got me thinking about customer loyalty and satisfaction. I have been a loyal USAA customer for 25 years. I’ve never even looked around to see whether I could get insurance or loyalty_programsbanking and investment services anywhere else. It doesn’t even cross my mind. Recently at Rave we did a Netpromoter-like survey to gauge customer satisfaction and their likelihood to recommend us to their peers. I’m proud to say our scores were fantastic and when coupled with our 99% client retention rate, are a testament to the hard work of our team; however, the question remains: how does a company deliver service in such a way that clients don’t even consider other options. Based on my personal experience with USAA, here are some simple keys to building a long-term partnership with your clients:

1) Deliver what you promise and make sure the promise is what the customer needs. At the core of customer satisfaction is a feeling that you received fair value for what you paid. One of USAA’s main products is insurance. Over the years I’ve had several occasions where I needed to call them (that one time a tree jumped in front of my car on a snowy day, the ice dams on the roof that caused a shower to form in the middle of our kitchen, etc.). The immediate response wasn’t them sending me a form to justify reimbursement. In the case of home repairs, one time they asked what the repair estimate was and sent a check before I had any written invoice. With car repairs they simply told me to get the car to the shop and they would handle everything. They truly delivered what they promised – I pay for insurance to just make the problem go away when an accident occurs. That has real value to me. Knowing that the service is just there, no questions asked. Similarly, the primary goal of a public safety application must be that it just works. When there is an emergency on campus, the button needs to send out messages quickly. When a 9-1-1 call is made, we need to deliver information we have about the caller. No bell or whistle can compensate for a solution not working at advertised when it’s needed. It hasn’t been easy, but over the years we’ve had to turn down many potential clients because we knew we weren’t the best solution for their needs. Ultimately, any relationship will go bad if you overpromise and under-deliver.

2) Listen to your customers. A large percentage of USAA’s client base is active duty military. They move often and are never near a USAA branch office (in fact, I don’t know that there is such a thing). ATM fees can be painful when the only way you have to get cash is to go to another bank’s machine. So, how did USAA respond? They reimburse the fees paid to use someone else’s ATM. Does this cost them? Sure. But, I’m sure those fee costs are off-set by the low customer churn they experience. I have no idea if the interest rate on my account is better or worse than another bank, but I know that as I travel around I don’t have to worry about paying additional fees. My bank understands and has addressed a need expressed by their customers. One of the things we have done for a number of years at Rave is host a client advisory group. We bring in our public safety clients and bounce ideas off them. It isn’t us just telling them our roadmap, it’s them creating our roadmap. We’ve created new initiatives from this process that never would have come about organically and killed ones that would have resulted in failure. I’m excited that in the upcoming months we’ll be reinvigorating that same model on our Higher Education side of the business. No one knows their needs better than the customer themselves, the key is to listen to them not just speak at them.

3) 3) Follow the Golden Rule. As I mentioned above, when I’ve had an issue that required me to engage with my insurance provider, I didn’t have to justify why I was calling or fill out forms in triplicate before getting a response. When you need insurance it usually isn’t your best day, you just want to be treated with respect and fairness. That doesn’t mean that you don’t eventually have to do the dirty paperwork, or that you won’t have a question over why you were paid X instead of Y. Questions inevitably occur when money changes hands, but questions don’t result in conflict when both parties treat each other with respect and understanding. One aspect of our culture that I am very proud of is our customer-centric focus. Whether someone can’t remember how to perform a certain function with one of our tools, or is chasing down details on an incident, our services team treats every incident like they were the one with the Chief or Chancellor breathing down their neck for action. When respect for others is at the core of your culture, it pays dividends most during stressful situations.

Successful companies are built on long-term relationships with their customers. We are proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish, but like any company need to continue to evolve and learn from others. USAA provides a great model for us to emulate, but most importantly we have a team passionate about helping our clients improve safety.

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