Customer Acquisition vs. Retention and the Brand Experience

Feature image (c) University of Liverpool. CC BY-SA 2.0.

Last month the special introductory rate on my internet service expired. So last week I called my provider about switching to a new plan. The gentleman I spoke with gave me three options and I told him I’d need to speak with the wife and get back to them.

This week I followed up with my service provider and got routed to the sales department. I told the woman on the line about the three options I was given last week. None of the plans she was giving me matched those options.

“Are you sure?” I asked in frustration.

“Yes Mr. Ron.” (I told her that I prefer to go by Ron, so she switched from calling me Mr. Dawson to Mr. Ron. Go figure.)

“But I just spoke with the guy 6 days ago. I specifically said I would call back.”

“Yes, I see that in your notes Mr. Ron. But it’s possible those plans are no longer available.”

“Well, can I speak with a supervisor then.”

“Um, okay. Hold on.”

A few minutes pass.

“Hello, Mr. Ron?”

“You can just call me Ron. But, yes?”

“I will have to transfer you to our retention department. Okay?”

“Sure. Whatever.”

“Thank you for calling [Company Name]. You have a wonderful day.”

“We shall see.”

So I get transferred to “the retention department” which is just the main friggin’ menu. (She must have pushed the wrong button.) This time instead of hitting the “new service” option, I hit the “cancelling or downgrading” option. That apparently leads to the retention department.

The retention rep got on the line, and from the very first sentence I could tell I was dealing with a completely different caliber of person. There is no real diplomatic way to say this, but let’s just say his diction, eloquence, and demeanor were significantly more advanced than the “Mr. Ron” lady. (FWIW, the “Mr. Ron” lady was NOT a foreigner, in case you’re wondering.) Mr. Retention Guy quoted me the exact same packages the guy did from last week, without even looking up my record. WTF. He was pleasant to speak with, called me just Ron, and answered all of my questions. I swear, it was like talking to a completely different company.

Sales vs. Retention

I get what’s going on here. They use the less trained and lower paid employees in the sales department; employees who basically only have the skillset to read pre-written scripts (which was pretty much what Mr. Ron Lady did). But if they could possibly lose a customer, they bring out the “big guns” and utilize better packages and employees who have a greater command of the language and are capable of making decisions on the fly.

As I was mentioning earlier this week, the brand experience starts even before a customer becomes a customer. I understand the need to retain customers, but my guess is that because this particular company pretty much has a monopoly in my area, they can afford to invest less in getting new clients vs. keeping current ones. That is just one of the reasons good, strong competition is healthy for business.

What is your sales process like? Do you invest as much in getting new clients as retaining your current ones? What kind of processes do you put in place to retain your current clients (e.g. emailing them periodically so they don’t forget about you; giving them incentives; etc.) From soup to nuts, are you ensuring the experience you provide is congruous with the brand you want to convey?