By Terrel Transtrum, Co-founder, LaunchSmart™
You can become good at retention!
In prior articles, we established that the average annual attrition rate in direct selling companies is 80% per year. We also introduced the 30 best practices of the Retention Leaders, those companies that have managed to beat the averages. We have helped readers to see how even a small increase in retention greatly leverages growth and momentum, and that retention presents one of the best opportunities for high Return on Investment (ROI).
The four Retention Principles are listed below. In this article, we explore the last of the four principles of retention. Upon these principles the 30 Retention Best Practices derive their power.
The 4 Retention Principles
Principle 4 – Leadership
Much has been written through the ages about leadership. The essence of leadership is vision, passion and action.
Leadership is about people. And since we are in the people business—the relationship business—leadership drives retention. Leadership is about motivation and behavior, not marketing or finance or product development. It is about customers, business builders, field leaders, and employees, all of whom are people.
Leadership is about humanistic values and principles of the kind people devote their lives to, outside work and sometimes on the job as well. People have always been far more motivated to devote energy to organizations with a service goal than to organizations that exist exclusively to make a buck. This is obviously the case, since in churches and civic organizations, most work for no other reward. But there is no good reason to suppose we can’t serve other people in business as well, and there is every reason to do just that. Yet corporate leaders lose sight of this fact. They can’t understand why the troops won’t rally behind a mission statement that places the maximization of shareholder value as the highest corporate and ethical goal.
Even more surprising is the fact that so many individuals lose sight of the deeply personal opportunities a well-run business can offer them. Choosing whom we work for and with are two of the most important decisions most of us make. The choice of a work community defines our lives and identities more powerfully than our choice of a suburb or a senator or even a house or vacation destination. Yet many people look on their life’s work only as a necessary evil, the unavoidable means of achieving a desired standard of living. They don’t expect principled management, just a generous paycheck. They don’t expect to get meaning and spiritual sustenance from their labor, just to spend by far the greatest part of their waking hours working at it.
But talk to employees as well as field leaders at one of the companies we call retention leaders, and you will get a very different picture. Employees are proud that they and their colleagues treat customers and field leaders and each other the way they themselves would like to be treated. They see their work experience as more than a selfish, competitive game. Their pursuit of self-interest is balanced by the organization’s dedication to serving others. Partnerships are structured to reinforce the idealistic but still practical ethic that only in serving others well can we serve ourselves well.
Work that is congruent with personal principles is a source of energy. Work that sacrifices personal principles drains personal energy. Retention leaders offer people a fulfilling work experience, both at the office and in the field, based on values rather than on mercenary convenience. The fulfilling experience is a powerful source of motivation and energy, and it ultimately feeds the economic advantages inherent in a system built around service and loyalty.
There exists no shortage of traits, qualities and practices that contribute to guiding your corporate organization to high retention. Of those we have observed, the following service competencies consistently appear in the lineup of the retention leaders.
- Communication – Keen listening, understanding, speaking and writing skills, correctly interpreting needs and wants. Timely reporting progress and resolution. Receive questions and complaints with courtesy and enthusiasm, respond in a caring, knowledgeable, timely and enthusiastic manner. Empathetic. Master of crucial conversations.
- Customer Sensitivity – Responsive to the attitudes, feelings, needs and circumstances of the customer and field leader. Avoid preconceived judgments.
- Decisiveness – Skill and personal power required to settle a concern, dispute or doubt through firmness, resolve and determination.
- Energy – Undertaking all commitments, tasks and assignments with vitality, intensity, vigor and determination.
- Flexibility – Capable of variation and modification to special circumstances; responsive to change; adaptable.
- Focus and Concentration – Ability to single out and concentrate on distinct and clearly defined issues, tasks, customers and responsibilities in proper order and priority.
- Follow-up – Meticulously making good on each promise, then informing the customer or field leader of the outcome, result and completion.
- Impact – Positive, strong and lasting effect on the customer, field leaders, co-workers and systems touched in the problem resolution process.
- Initiative – Self-motivated to begin and follow through with a promise, task or plan.
- Integrity – Unconditional adherence to a code of personal values; character and total honesty. Doing what you say you will do.
- Judgment – Good sense, wisdom and capacity to make reasonable decisions. Weighing alternatives in light of correct principles to reach the right outcome. Understand the effect of a decision.
- Knowledge – Expertly understands and explains products, compensation plan and policies & procedures. Comfortable with the phrase, “I don’t know” and knows how to get the answer.
- Motivation to Serve – Take ownership of each problem, resolve it immediately and to the satisfaction of both the field and the company. Keep the customer or field leader informed of steps taken along the way to final resolution.
- Persuasive / Sales Ability – With care and skill, help the field rep understand how a policy, position and/or solution is in the field’s very best interest. Master the ability to say “no” (when necessary) while leaving the field rep feeling as though we have said “yes.”
- Planning – Work within an individually structured and ordered process, giving attention to personal daily prioritizing of tasks and responsibilities.
- Problem Solving – Distinguishing each question or issue into individual elements; thoroughly analyzes with the objectives of (1) solving the immediate problem or concern of the customer, and (2) solving the greater problem within the internal systems.
- Resilience – Ability to recover quickly from discouragement, frustration or embarrassment. Carefully cultivating healthy self-esteem, learning not to take personally the anger or heat of a customer.
- Work Ethic – Personal commitment to becoming a professional and to promoting a professional working environment by giving an “honest day’s work” in return for the paycheck.
(The content of this article is extracted from ServiceQuest® RetentionSmarts™ Modules. For more information on RetentionSmarts™ training and mentoring systems, contact a member of the LaunchSmart Team.)