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What are your customers worth?

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Four in 10 senior executives in larger companies don’t know the lifetime value of their customers. That’s according to a study by Sitecore and Forbes Insights, which surveyed 312 senior executives. Not only did 40 percent not know the financial value of their customers, more than half said they had no intention of finding out. In other words, these corporate leaders don’t consider this information important.

This absolutely surprises me. If the leaders of these organizations don’t know this information, then you can expect that their employees don’t either. Yet if employees understand the lifetime value of a customer, they can make better, customer-focused decisions which can have an enormous impact on customer loyalty.

Let’s look at an example most of us can understand. Studies have shown that the average grocery-store customer spends between $80 and $200 each week. Let’s make this easy and say that the average customer spends $100. Assuming he and his family take a couple of weeks off for vacation, that’s 50 weeks a year that he buys groceries or $5,000 per year.

The average family moves house about every seven years. Assuming they move out of their neighborhood, that means the average family is worth about $35,000 in grocery business over those seven years. So the next time that customer complains about a carton of spoiled milk, give him his money back. Is it worth upsetting him over a few dollars, when he’s worth $35,000? Of course not!

Here’s a six-step plan for making the most out of this important information:

1.     Calculate. Determine the lifetime value of your customer. How much the average customer spends each time she buys, how often she buys in a year and how many years she buys? (This is a bit of a simplification but a good start.)

2.     Communicate. Share this information with employees so they can make better decisions.

3.     Demonstrate. Give customers examples of the kinds of customer service decisions they can make: refunds, exchanges, upgrades and more.

4.     Recognize. Acknowledge when employees make good decisions. Encourage them to do more of the same.

5.     Teach. Conversely, if an employee makes a bad decision, help him feel confident about making the right decision next time.

6.     Share. Tell the story. Share good (and bad) examples of employee decisions. Consider it part of their ongoing training.

In short, knowing the value of a customer just makes sense. Here is a simple rule of thumb: Manage your interactions with customers—with their lifetime value in mind—and do so with each and every interaction.

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Shep Hyken is a professional speaker and best-selling author. For more information on Shep’s speaking presentations, call 314-692-2200, email [email protected] or go to


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