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Welcome to Growth Interviews!

Welcome to Growth Interviews, the fun, stimulating and engaging series of conversations driven by digital business growth.

Our mission is to provide insights and ideas from world-class professionals on the topic of growth and to cut through the noise of so-called marketing tips and tricks, revealing the money-making strategies behind e-commerce.

Each episode is an intriguing challenge involving an insightful expert who reveals some of their best-kept secrets, which you can use right away to boost your business. 

In this week’s episode of Growth Interviews, we invite you to join our conversation with Gerry McGovern, a highly-regarded speaker and the founder and CEO of Customer Carewords.

Gerry has spoken on the digital customer experience in more than 35 countries and has written seven books. His latest is called Top Tasks, which is a detailed how-to implementation guide on how organizations can improve the customer experience through identifying types of potential customers and optimizing customer top tasks.

The Irish Times has described Gerry McGovern as one of five visionaries who have had a major impact on the development of the Web. He has appeared on BBC, CNN, and CNBC television, participated in various radio shows, and featured in numerous print media publications. Microsoft, Cisco, NetApp, Toyota, and IBM are just a few of Gerry’s commercial clients and he is also a consultant for the European Union, and the United States, British, Dutch, Canadian, Norwegian, and Irish governments whom he helps better understand potential customers.

During the interview, we asked Gerry about potential customer analysis, how to find potential customers, and what the top players in the industry do differently in order to acquire and retain customers. His advice can be heard in the video below. 


We hope you wrote everything down, but in case you didn’t, here’s a full transcript of the interview. By the way, if you would like to learn more about customer retention and lifetime value, make sure you check out our previous growth interviews as well.

The marketing obsession with potential customers

What do you think are the worst things everybody is doing in digital marketing?

Gerry: The obsession with potential customers and the neglect of current customers. I think that’s the biggest mistake that people are making.

It’s not a mistake that Amazon makes. In most organizations, the longer you’re with that organization, the worse you’re treated. So, the longer you stay a customer with a blank, the more they charge you. If you’re a potential customer, they offer you all the good deals. 

Organizations are obsessed with potential customers and neglect their current customers, because they think it’s like a marriage. Once they’ve married and got their customer, they won’t leave them. But people do leave and their loyalty is in decline. It has never been in decline before.

The reason for it is because most organizations neglect their current customers. The best way to build your business is an obsession with your current customers, not an obsession with your potential customers.

Customer retention is a subject we have been focusing a lot on lately, mainly because the e-commerce industry has reached a point where it’s getting harder to bring new people online. Instead, retailers should focus on loyalty programs designed to build relationships with their existing customers, to make them stay, and to bring new customers on board.

Unfortunately, most businesses get this wrong: they focus on potential customers instead of on current customers, who are completely neglected.

The difference between a traditional and a clever organization

What do you think keeps actual customers in the long run?

Gerry: The fact that you treat them better. You’ve got to think from the customer’s point of view. If you are an Amazon Prime customer, you get free delivery within a day or two. You get better service than if you’re not an Amazon Prime customer. ‘If you spend a lot of money with me, I will treat you better than if you don’t spend a lot.

So, the more you spend with me, you’ve got to be constantly saying (something else) rather than, ‘They spend a lot with me, we can make even more profit on them.‘ That’s how traditional organizations think. The clever organizations think, ‘They spend a lot of money with us, we should give some back to them so that they’ll stay with us because they’re such good customers.‘ So, instead of exploiting the customers, those who are your best customers, give something back to them.

You’ve got to think from the customer’s perspective. ‘Do they care about me? Do they treat me well? I’m giving them all this business and yet, they don’t answer my calls.‘ The relentless focus must be on (the notion that) the longer the customer stays with you, and the more business they do with you, the better you treat them. Not the fact that you see them as a potential customer, to make even more profit!

Four easy ways to retain customers:

? Thank your customers: it seems obvious, but you’d be surprised how many retailers don’t thank their customers for staying with them.
? Get customer feedback: asking for feedback shows that you care and you want to improve. Customers will leave reviews on dedicated websites or social media as well; it’s important to meet them wherever they feel comfortable.
? Communicate with your customers: whether it’s through newsletter or events, it’s important that you reach out to your customers on a regular basis.
? Showcase customer experiences: showcasing your customers’ experiences not only show that you care, but it can also garner great engagement.

What’s the take on this perspective combined with marketing efforts?

Gerry: Actually, marketing becomes as focused on current customers’ journeys as it becomes on potential customers. Most marketers only care about potential customers. They should be caring about the journey, the true support, and marketing should be just as concerned about the support experience as the buying experience because it is often the support experience which means whether you will ever buy again or not buy again. Many customers are lost during the support experience, and yet that is totally neglected.

Marketers should be looking at all the journeys that customers have had. If a customer wants to rebuy, most marketers don’t care about that. There might be five steps to rebuy a product. If you make it two steps, they’ll rebuy far more products, but marketers don’t care about rebuy. That’s crazy because marketers are measured on (the number of) new customers! 

Microsoft used to measure their sales reps based on how much they were selling. They don’t do that anymore. Do you know how they measure them now? They measure them based on what is used of what they sold. They get their bonuses based on how the things they sold are being used. So, if they sell a thousand seats for SharePoint and only 500 are used, it’s just not a good sign.

The client is feeling, ‘I paid for a thousand seats, but you oversold me 500!‘ So, the sales rep now gets punished for selling the 500 that were not used, because they neglected the long term relationship. Before, it was all about, ‘Sell the seats! Sell the seats! Sell the seats!‘ Who gives a damn if they used them or not because you were rewarded based on what you sold!  Now they’re rewarding them based on what is being used.

That’s a dramatic change! Once you start that, the sales rep wants to sell you things that you use. Then, everybody’s happy.

Slack is a competitor. If you have bought 200 seats – so, 200 people on Slack – it will monitor usage every month; if 50 people stop using Slack, do you know what it will do? Charge less. They will send you a discount for the 50 and they’ll start only charging you for 150.

That’s one of the reasons why Slack is successful because people are saying, ‘Finally, we found a company that doesn’t cheat us, that treats us well.‘ There’s an amazing business model in treating customers well!

Why should e-commerce businesses invest in customer support?

Customer support is key to retaining the customers you have and getting more value from them. By providing excellent customer support, retailers can lower acquisition costs and build a loyal customer base that will refer friends and colleagues, serve as case studies and testimonials, and write customer reviews.

Happy customers are also more understanding when something goes wrong and are less sensitive to price increases.


So there you have it. In case you were still not convinced how important customer loyalty is, we hope this interview has shed some light. Now stop focusing on your potential customers and get to work on a strategy to make your current customers happier.

We had the pleasure to meet Gerry McGovern during GPeC (Gala Premiilor eCommerce – E-commerce Awards Gala) in Bucharest, Romania. GPeC is known as the most important E-Commerce Event in Romania and South-Eastern Europe, bringing together the best international experts in the field. Their objective is to become the place where you can find everything about e-commerce and digital marketing.

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