Peter F. Drucker once opined that,
The purpose of business is to create and keep a customer.
Acquiring (creating) a customer is difficult because the sales and marketing organizations must align company capabilities with customer needs. If alignment occurs, a sale is possible at a specific point in time. If the customer need arises too early products aren’t ready. And if product development outpaces market demands customers aren’t ready to purchase. Business transactions occur only when supply and demand meet.
If acquiring a customer sounds difficult, the challenge of keeping a customer is even greater because the alignment must continue beyond the point of sale and be sustained throughout the relationship.
An example from personal lives may help illustrate the difference: getting married is easy, but staying married (as each person’s needs evolve and change) is hard work.* Similarly, after a sale, customer needs and company products change continually – often in different directions at different rates.
Since we want to “stay married” to our customers, we care about customer engagement. Because gauging customer engagement is difficult I have developed over two dozen indicators to serve as a proxy for engagement. Among these indicators:
- How many of our different product modules did the customer license from us?
- What version of software is the customer running?
- How many cases does a customer open with us?
- Do customer representatives attend our webinars or visit our events?
- How often does the customer respond to our surveys?
Then, we map these scores (signs of engagement) to help us understand if our customer is:
- Engaged, in which case we take a pre-defined set of actions to increase customer value and engagement, OR
- Disengaged, in which case we take a different set of pre-defined actions designed to help re-engage
The pivot point is that like any relationship, the key to a successful one between supplier and customer is communication. If we don’t know how customer needs change, and customers don’t know how our capabilities have changed, how can either of us expect to have a healthy relationship?
What indicators make sense for your business?
(* clearly does not apply to my lovely wife)