Jack Welch wrote that when he was the head of GE, he spent up to 30% of his time traveling and ensuring that his managers and everybody under them understood the mission statement & core values of GE. He then wrote that he wished he could spend more time doing that, as it was the most important activity.

I often feel the same way about preaching about the critical importance of putting effort into keeping the customers you worked so hard to bring in your door.

It’s still true that in the wider world, you rarely hear people talking about how to retain the customers they’ve worked so hard to acquire. They’ve spent an enormous amount of time, energy, and money to get customers, and yet hardly anyone knows what to do next – and how to keep them happy. But this is precisely where many of my clients spent a lot of their time.

You attract customers with marketing. You convert them with a sales process. But when it comes to retention, a lot of companies aren’t sure what to do next.

“Provide great service! Wow ’em!” the experts tell us! They tell us this because they’re not exactly sure how to do it either, so they look for the easy examples and share the all-too-common stories from companies like Apple, or Nordstrom, or The Ritz-Carlton.

But this only works to an extent. The truth is, loyalty is merely a symptom, and retention efforts are the cause. Without having retention efforts in play (either accidentally or purposefully), you cannot have loyalty.

I often tell my clients “If you only ever hear your sales and marketing people talking about the next new deal or the next big promotion, ask them if they’re willing to work for 50% of their pay because they’re only doing 50% of their jobs.

I have a client who came to me about a year ago. We did some simple math and learned that the lack of a retention system and follow-up process was likely costing the business at least $164,600 every quarter, in terms of opportunities lost to competitors, lost ability to create additional sales in different service lines, and the increased attrition that comes from a lack of purposeful retention efforts.

That’s not a “well, provide a great experience and wow ’em!” solution. That’s a problem of expecting the symptoms without the cause.

We implemented a drop-dead-simple proprietary process for maintaining, nurturing, and building the existing customer base. Additionally, we tweaked the sales process and started a simple weekly email blast (not much different than this one).

I’ve since started other clients on this exact same process and they’ve seen results instantly ( literally instantly, typically within days!)

Our efforts have transformed his business. His customers are happier. They’re spending more money. They’re closing more deals, and we’ve curbed the attrition issue.

Retention doesn’t need to be difficult, but you do need a process and a system in place if you want loyal customers. The very phrase “customer loyalty” is incredibly flawed because that it implies that it’s the customer’s duty to be loyal, and that’s wrong.

Here’s a hint: Loyalty has very little to do with the customer, and a lot to do with how you’re creating it.

Today’s Key Challenge: Are you simply expecting customer loyalty?

Write down your entire post-sale customer follow-up process and map out exactly how you’re creating the symptom. Write down everything your company does after the sale, from first purchase to happily ever after.