Retaining Customers by Delivering Exceptional Customer Satisfaction

Written by Cora Lynn Heimer Rathbone How do we keep and grow our existing customers? How do we provide customer satisfaction that keeps our customers/clients buying from us, engaging us in their world? How do we make them a source of referrals to win new customers?

Retaining Customers

A song from a very old film called “Camelot” comes to mind: “Simply love them, love them, love them.” If only it were so easy! For starters, not every client wants to be ‘loved’. Some just want to be served fully relative to their scope, efficiently and quickly.

Clearly we need to ask our customers/clients what ‘satisfaction’ means to them, not assume that we know, not project our own definition of ‘satisfaction’ onto them.

Experience of the last 20 years with clients, particularly for those operating in B2B markets delivering engineering products and services (think engineering consultancies and architecture firms), and research on the subject suggest several specific factors contribute towards customer satisfaction. Especially with increasing complexity, customers/clients consistently name certain factors as critical contributors towards exceptional customer satisfaction.

Six Factors for Exceptional Customer Satisfaction

  1. design that captures the customer’s expectations and provides clarity about what customer satisfaction looks like – giving confidence of the ‘end-game’ from the start;
  2. quality of delivery against that design and those expectations – aligning to the customer’s specification;
  3. a price that represents fair, if not superb, value. Supporting those factors, especially the first two, are:
  1. strong project plans with clear end-to-end milestones – enabling coordination, cooperation and the building of trust;
  2. consistent stakeholder management – ensuring appropriate engagement of key players;
  3. regular, if not frequent, communication – reducing the incidence of conflict and providing the first steps towards conflict resolution when it arises.

Essential to all of the above is a culture where strong teams form and flourish – some would say a culture where high-performing teams are the norm. Customers/clients see through corporate facades. Poor teamwork or the absence of teamwork inhibits creativity in design and erodes confidence in delivery. Customers/clients recognise teamwork when they see it.

And the Glue is - Teamwork

But don’t stop there. Take it one stage further.  High-performing teams are: 

  • more than a group, which some define as a collection of individuals who share information and know-how to help each other achieve individual goals; and
  • more than a team, which some define as a small set of individuals committed to a common purpose, shared end-goals and common approach, who hold themselves mutually accountable.

High performance teams are small collections of individuals who outperform all reasonable expectations through members who are committed to helping each other develop and to supporting each other to deliver personal bests. Think of the UK’s 2012 Olympic cycling team. 
More than ever, to deliver consistent customer satisfaction, whatever the context but especially in B2B service delivery businesses (e.g. construction, architecture, engineering consultancies), teamwork is not a ‘soft’ subject or a nice to have. Quite simply, we need to pay attention to how we work together. We need to aim to be high performing teams. Far from ‘simply loving them’, we do our best work in the interest of our customers/clients – the Kings – when we work with interest in the growth and personal best of each other.

We all know that, as organizations, it costs us 90% more to win a new customer than to retain and grow our customer base. The most reliable way to do this is by delivering high customer satisfaction. The only sure way of doing this consistently is through high performing teams.  To explore how you as a business can develop and grow your business through current customers/clients, call Rathbone Results on 020 8798 0175 or email

A trusted business adviser for over 30 years and a Partner at Rathbone Results, Cora Lynn has gained extensive international experience through senior roles in leading business schools and global consultancies and has published 3 books. She works with businesses to unlock potential. Example: one established consulting engineering client grew sales by 130% and net profit by 180% during a period of market decline. 

[1] From Jon R. Katzenbach and Douglas K. Smith and their 1993 book The Wisdom of Teams

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