This is Article #8 in the Customer Retention series.
This 9 part series teaches you how to build a predictable customer retention strategy. By the end of this series, you’ll be on your way to confidently increasing your customer retention.
- Why Customer Retention Is So Hard to Improve
- 3 Tools to Improve Customer Retention (only 1 is software!)
- The Best Customer Retention Strategy for Growing Companies
- How to Build a Predictable Customer Retention Strategy
- How to Use Small Customer Insights to Get Large Customer Retention Wins
- Improve Your Customer Retention: Launching a Customer Retention Strategy
- 5 Proven Steps to Get The Budget for Your Customer Retention Project
Of all the articles you’ve read so far in this series, this one may be the most important one of all. Choosing to hire an outside 3rd party expert consultant or services firm or choosing to run your customer retention strategy in-house is a big decision. If you make the wrong choice, it can be very costly. Not only in terms of money but time, resources, and employee morale.
At this point in the series, you may have already launched your customer retention strategy. Or you may be about to launch it. This is the perfect time to ask these 7 questions. You want to get your strategy running predictably as soon as possible. This may mean running your strategy in-house or hiring an outside expert party to help you. Taking the time to answer these 7 questions will help give you clarity on which is the best choice for you.
5 reasons why companies hire a 3rd party expert
Before launching into the 7 questions, it’s important to understand the biggest reasons why companies choose to hire a 3rd party instead of running the project in-house.
The in-house team doesn’t have the skill set.
In this situation, the company doesn’t want to hire a new employee for that skill set nor are they looking to train a current employee. Depending on the company’s strategic goals and business model, a good choice in this situation is to hire an outside expert consultant or services firm to do the work. These expert companies and consultants have highly specialized skill sets and processes that take years to perfect. If the company doesn’t want to develop the skill set in-house, hiring an expert 3rd party either temporarily or on a permanent basis is a good option.
While it’s not likely the case for your customer retention strategy, sometimes outside experts are brought in to help out when a deadline is fast approaching. If you follow the guidelines and steps in the past 7 articles (see first paragraph for details) to construct your customer retention strategy, you will never need to hire outside help for a tight deadline.
The company may influence the outcome
Every single one of us has biases. One of the most common ways to overcome bias in business situations is to hire a 3rd party expert to come in and observe the situation from an outsider’s perspective.
One of the biggest challenges with collecting your customer feedback in-house, is that you are prone to adding bias in 2 ways:
in the types of questions you ask
during the analysis and interpretation of your results
Many people don’t realize that there are specific ways to ask questions for surveys, focus groups and interviews. The biggest mistake I see people make is asking leading questions. Leading questions are constructed in a way that they guide the respondent to the answer in the way that you want. Not only does this give you inaccurate information, but it also doesn’t help you discover opportunities for change. (Here’s a great article about what leading questions are and how to avoid them.)
During the analysis and interpretation of your results, there’s another type of bias that can slip in. It’s called confirmation bias. Sometimes when we’re interpreting data for our company, we tend to see the data in a more positive light. This means we may gloss over the negative data and not give it as much weight. Confirmation bias is dangerous because it leads to the misinterpretation of data and skewed results. The impact of this bias is serious – skewed results mean you end up making decisions on inaccurate data.
Depending on where your company is in terms of growth, you may have to rely on your in-house team to gather your customer insights, analyze the data and interpret the results. If you’re aware of leading questions and confirmation bias and keep tight control over them, you can get by.
As your customer insights activities increase in number and your analysis becomes more complex, reaching out to a 3rd party expert for guidance, advice or to run your project makes sense. Even if you continue to run your customer retention strategy in-house, it always helps to get expert insights to ensure your customer retention strategy is efficiently run and accurate.
The company doesn’t know where to begin
In solving complex problems like increasing customer retention, sometimes companies need help in figuring out the best place to start tackling their problem. You don’t have to worry about this. The previous 7 articles guide you to discover the right starting place for you (hint: onboarding is the best place to start).
Company resources are focused on other projects
Similar to point #1, the company may need its employees or capital assets on other projects. They hire expert consultants or services companies to bring their own employees and resources to get the project to completion. If this ever is the situation for you, remember there are consultants and service firms to help you.
Now that you know the reasons why companies hire outside 3rd party experts, let’s look at those 7 questions to help you decide whether you want to run your customer retention strategy in-house or hire a 3rd party to help you.
The 7 questions
Are we capable of doing this project ourselves?
In answering this question, look at resources, time, staff and skill set. You might want to list these in terms of priority for the project you’re working on. Then decide whether it makes sense to run in-house or hire outside help.
Do we have the competency to achieve our desired outcome using only internal resources?
This question is basically asking if you have the internal knowledge and experience to get to your desired outcome. If you don’t, it might make sense to hire an expert to help fill in your internal knowledge and experience gaps. Depending on who you hire, this outside help may also offer training to your team to fill in those knowledge gaps. Then your team can get the experience by running the project in-house.
Is our experience helping or hurting us with this initiative?
Sometimes a little bit of experience is a bad thing. We know just enough that we might not want to see that we’re limiting ourselves by not asking for help. Other times, the experience is ideal in helping a new project get off the ground. Explore whether your company’s experience is helping or interfering with your new customer retention strategy.
(You can download and save these 7 questions from this handy guide.)
Is our perspective helping or hurting us in this initiative?
This question ties back to the earlier discussion we had on confirmation bias. Humans have this bias as a way of quickly dealing with a mountain of information. We look for things that confirm what we already believe and value. This means we quickly disregard information that’s not in line with our beliefs and values.
In discussing this question, if you find you or your team are quickly dismissing alternative viewpoints, that’s a good indication that confirmation bias has taken hold. If that’s the case, seek some outside help to give you a broader perspective.
Do we have the capacity to do this project ourselves?
Capacity includes time, resources, skill set, and staff. Identify which of these you have and which you’re lacking.
Do we have the capacity right now to accomplish this initiative?
If you don’t have the immediate capacity, you can hire an outside consultant or services firm to run it for you. You can also choose to defer the initiative until you have the capacity to run the project in-house.
Is this initiative the best use of our capacity?
Depending on your strategic goals, your capacity may be best used on other more mission critical projects. If this is the case, consider hiring a 3rd party to run all or parts of your initiative. (You can download and save these 7 questions from this handy guide.)
Choosing to run a project in-house or hiring an expert consultant or services firm should be an on-going discussion. Sometimes the best time to run an initiative in-house is after a 3rd party is hired and teaches your team the missing skill set. Other times, it’s best to hire an outside agency or consultant after you’ve tried to run the project in-house. Maybe you’ve hit your capacity with your team’s skill set, or your team doesn’t know how to overcome new challenges.
As a smart leader, you’ll know when to ask for outside help with your customer retention strategy.
Here are some common situations when leaders reach out to us for help:
- When you want to add more complexity to your customer retention strategy
- When the number of customer insight activities grows beyond your team’s capacity to gather, analyze and interpret all your customer insights data.
- When you want to fill any holes or inefficiencies that may be in your strategy.
The option to hire a 3rd party expert consultant or service provider is always open. Some companies hire an outside agency for a very short period of time — enough to get skill set training, project oversight and an expert’s opinion. Other companies outsource their entire customer retention project permanently. And then there are all the points in between.
Contacting a 3rd party to ask what types of services and training they offer can help you better answer the 7 questions in terms of accurately assessing your skill set, experience, and capacity. It’s always worth taking a few minutes to investigate your options before deciding.
We are now heading into the final article of this customer retention series. Woohoo! We’ve covered a lot of ground. And you’ve learned a lot. In this last article, you’ll learn how to become your company’s customer retention expert. If that makes you feel a bit nervous, you don’t need to be. This series has got you covered.