Customers for life


Do you ever stop and think about why it’s so hard to get really great customer service? As consumers, most of us are making transactions all day long, but it’s rare that someone actually surprises or delights us. More often, we rack up negative experiences. Think of what it’s like to fly a US airline or wait for your telco company to come fix your cable, and you’ll be channeling the kind of pain I mean.

It’s funny that customer alienation happens so often, given that most organizations are sincerely trying to build a good brand and want nothing more than to create customers who stay for life. So why is there a disconnect? Where do they go astray?

I’d argue that’s because most organizations lack sufficient knowledge. To wow someone, you have to know them. And knowing customers is hard. Understanding what drives them is even harder.

Fortunately we have analytics, the sure-fire way for organizations to uncover insights that make for happy customers. If you want to turn your customer data to business advantage, there’s no better way than applying analytics to make data-based decisions. But building an analytics culture doesn’t just happen naturally. It takes time, persuasion and investment.

How exactly to get there is the subject of my upcoming talk at EMEA Analytics 2015 in Rome. You’ll have to wait for my presentation to hear my complete six-step checklist for building an analytics culture, but I can share one key point with you now, and that is that you have to make a distinction between analyzing your customers and engaging your customers.


Let me give you an example. Say you want to work on customer retention. You build a model to tell you which people are most at risk of leaving. You generate a list of those at risk and send it over to marketing. And then marketing targets those customers with an offer to retain them. That’s analyzing your customers. Engaging your customers involves a different approach.

Engagement means taking a step back and saying, “I’ve built this model and it tells me who’s at risk. But I want to know more. Why do we even have customers at risk in the first place? What are the underlying causes that are putting them there? And instead of accepting their departure as inevitable, what could we do differently to eliminate the things that make them want to leave?”

Under this approach, at the same time you send out an offer to the customers at risk of leaving, you also take a step back and consider how to improve your CRM process. Because looking at that bigger picture is the only way you’re going to delight the customer. And that’s the kind of mental shift you have to make if you want to create customers for life.

But that’s just the beginning of the discussion. I can’t wait to see you in Rome to describe more.


About Author

Fritz Lehman

Executive Vice President & Chief Customer Officer

Fritz Lehman is passionate about customer care. As Chief Customer Officer, he leads a division of more than 2,000 employees dedicated to ensuring customer satisfaction and providing seamless customer support. Topics that interest him include excellence in leadership, fostering trust and building great teams.


  1. I'm curious if any organizations performed similar research, but for employee retention (looking at the employee as the customer), and what the outcomes were as a result.

    • Hi Kara,
      One important factor of retention is engagement, and most savvy Human Resource organizations target engagement as a measure of success. In fact, everyone on Fortune's Best Companies to Work For list measures engagement annually using a Trust Index survey. Here at SAS, we do treat our employees as customers, and this is why our retention rates are so high (3.6 percent versus an industry norm of more than 15 percent).

      • Hi Fritz!
        This is a great piece! I can hardly wait to read the rest of the article after your Roma presentation, which I truly regret missing out on! As an academic leader-researcher whose student retention models mirror some of what you are proposing, I am excited and very impressed!

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