Retention is more important than acquisition

There are a few experiences that I cherish in life that other people take for granted. For example, I absolutely love going to my dentist. There is no better feeling than beautifully polished clean teeth.

Another example is getting an oil change. Most people go for the cheapest oil-changing option and get a mundane experience, but me, I pay extra for the Oil Can Henry’s experience. For a decade I’ve been going to Oil Can Henry’s for an oil change because they go above and beyond to make the experience wonderful.

I’ve recommended many friends and family to Oil Can Henry’s, but after my experience yesterday, I may never recommend a friend to them again.

This got me thinking: if a decade of amazing experiences can be shattered by one, inconsistent bad experience, then what can companies do to ensure and maintain consistency across all of their stores and employees?

Retention is more important than acquisition

So many companies focus exclusively on acquiring customers, but then lack the follow through and care to retain customers.

Our Flight Car experience

We were absolutely amazed with the Flight Car experience the very first time Kim and I used them. The driver put our bags in the trunk, opened the door for us, and gave us a clean, safe, and pleasant ride to the airport.

But after the 2nd or 3rd time, we started getting unpleasant, disgruntled drivers who would text while driving and tell us about how they couldn’t wait to get off of work. The driver is the face of the company, and it made me feel like the company didn’t care about its drivers, and in turn, didn’t care about their customers.

To top it off, Flight Car didn’t pay for a toll fee that we incurred while someone rented our car until I sent the following Tweets to them:

To be fair, Kim and I still hesitantly use Flight Car. They did pay the toll and their recent drivers have been terrific. Right now, it just feels like playing Russian roulette: sometimes we get a good experience, but most of the times we don’t.

What Flight Car can do to go above and beyond their retention efforts: 

  1. Maintain hardcore consistency with friendly and safe drivers (you just can’t have drivers texting while driving)
    • If you have to, add a camera to all vehicles to ensure a consistent experience
  2. Reset our radio channels to “normal” before giving the car back to us
    • It’s ridiculously annoying to get your car back and have to reset all of your favorite radio channels because the renter changed them
  3. Make it fast and easy to file tickets and get them solved
    • I’ve had multiple friends say that they’ve had similar issues with tolls and tickets going months unpaid by Flight Car
  4. Treat your employees well!
    • Every time we email with Flight Car, a new customer service agent addresses with, “Hi, the person you messaged no longer works for the company. I’m happy to help you solve your issue.”
    • How you treat your employees is a direct reflection to how you treat your customers

Kim’s Firewood Pizza experience

For years now Kim loves going to SFO because she gets to have pepperoni pizza at Firewood Pizza. Recently we were at SFO and I asked Kim, “Want to get some Firewood Pizza?”

She abruptly said, “No, I’m never eating there again.”

I was shocked. Kim loves pepperoni, probably more than she loves me. What could possibly have caused her to do a complete 180 on Firewood Pizza?

The answer: Kim felt ripped off the last time she ordered a pizza at Firewood Pizza.

The last time Kim ordered a pizza, she ordered extra pepperoni, and paid extra to get more of that delicious pepperoni onto her pizza. But when she opened her box, she didn’t notice anything “extra” about her pepperoni. Upset, Kim went to the cashier and said that she had ordered extra pepperoni, but got what looked like the same amount.

The cashier looked at her and said, “No, nothing is wrong with the pizza. It has extra pepperoni.”

One pepperoni and a cashier is all it took to lose a customer’s business.

What Firewood Pizza can do to go above and beyond their retention efforts:

  1. Give more pepperoni!!! 😛
  2. Empower their employees to make the customer happy
    • All it would have taken is for the cashier to say, “Oh you know what, you’re right. You do deserve more pepperoni on that pizza. Let me take care of that for you right away” and Kim would have loved them forever
    • Empower your employees to do what it takes to make the customer happy. Perhaps give them a limit: if it doesn’t cost the company more than $3, then do it without needing to ask for permission

My Oil Can Henry’s experience

On a beautiful Wednesday morning in San Francisco, I pulled up to Oil Can Henry’s and was greeted by a friendly staff member who handed me a newspaper and coupons — by the way, this is probably the only time I ever read the newspaper.

I took a look at the coupon and saw a brand new eco-friendly oil that they now provide. I was excited: this was my chance to contribute to the environment by purchasing eco-friendly oil.

But to my dismay, no one asked me what kind of oil I wanted in my car. There I was ready for the staff member to ask me about what kind of oil I wanted, to tell me about how clean or dirty my air filter was, and to tell me about what I need to be on the lookout for my car maintenance, but none of this happened.

Somewhat upset, I asked the staff member to speak to his manager. He said that his name was Fernando and that he was the manager. I told him about how I had been going to Oil Can Henry’s for a decade and that this was the first time no one asked me what kind of oil I wanted.

He didn’t apologize; instead, he went on to lecture me about how they do business: if a customer has been there before, then they don’t ask questions and just do the same service as last time. I was upset most about how Fernando didn’t acknowledge why I was upset and why my wonderful Oil Can Henry’s experience had been broken.

I may still go back there for the next oil change, but I definitely left with a bad taste in my mouth.

What Oil Can Henry’s can do to go above and beyond their retention efforts:

  1. Consistency of experience
    • The experience must be the same every time I go in for an oil change
  2. A culture where employees assume responsibility and don’t make customers feel like they’re wrong
    • What did Fernando win by telling me I was wrong? At that moment, there was nothing he could have said that would have convinced me that I was wrong; instead, he should have apologized, swallowed his pride, and admit that he was wrong for not asking me what kind of oil I wanted in my car
    • It’s all about culture. If employees know that the customer should always be treated with respect and should always feel good with the experience, then the manager would have addressed the situation in this way: “I’m sorry about that. Because you were here last time, I assumed you would want the same oil service so that I could get you in and out as fast as possible, but you’re right, I should have asked you. Would you like me to quickly make the change right now for no extra cost? I will take less than 10 minutes.”

My Fellow Barber experience

I’m leaving for Tokyo, Japan soon and I needed a haircut badly. I checked for barbers in the Mission and found some mixed reviews for Fellow Barber. It looked like a cool place so I thought I’d check it out. Immediately, I felt the pain that all the people on Yelp were complaining about: you can’t make a reservation.

Undeterred, I waited in the queue and got Cathy as my barber.

I remember the first time I went to my dentist here in San Francisco. I was probably one of the best experiences in my life — that’s exactly the feeling I had when I got my haircut from Cathy: she was detail oriented, fast, and didn’t force small talk. She looked at my hair with care, analyzed it, and made recommendations for how it could look even better.

The experience ended with a hot-towel head massage.

I will definitely be going back. I just hope that the experience remains consistent.

What are you doing right now to ensure that your clients and customers are receiving the same wonderful consistent experience every time they interact with your company?

Published by

Jun Loayza

Jun Loayza is the Chief Growth Officer at Bunny Inc. In his startup experience, he has sold 2 technology companies and raised $1M in angel funding. Jun lives in San Francisco, CA with his wife Kim.

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