Posts Tagged ‘referenceability’

In which I explain “Referenceability”, “Retention”, and especially “Stickiness”, and why YOU should care

May 20, 2010


A number of people have asked me just what on earth I mean by “product stickiness” – and why it matters (to them, I presume).

These days when I am asked what I do, or especially that perennial “what are you” that one gets from some people, I resist the fleeting temptation to issue a flippant “I am a carbon-based life-form of the non-bugeyed variety” and give the “personal branding” sound-bite that I am an …

“expert in knowledge-centered customer support & service delivery that increases customer referenceability, revenue retention, product stickiness, and reduces cost of execution”.

According to the current lore, everyone needs to have such a statement and to own their personal “brand”, without which apparently, we are lost. The objective of these personal-branding statements is presumably to either sound really important and high on the social scale, or to invite a polite question as to what it means – just in case one is asked by an important person whilst riding the elevator.

The polite questions I get most frequently are about the customer referenceability, revenue retention, and product stickiness segment of my brand – mostly about stickiness, which I am sure makes people think that I do something rather boring or unpleasant in the adhesives field. Maybe like sticky-notes that glom to one’s fingers or drip goo or something.

The issue though, is that corporate goals are often expressed in a very general way that makes it difficult for people other than those on the top floor to understand what they mean operationally. Even worse, the “motherhood” statements tend to lead to a sense of hypocrisy and an attitude of cynicism.

In my experience it is far better to be quite clear that the goal is to achieve mastery of a market niche and to do so at a preferred EBITDA, and then show how each person plays a role in that.

Let’s for example pick customer support, and the teams that play that role.

The question I pose to the support staff, is why exactly they should give a damn whether the customer is satisfied or not, and then I proceed to burst the “motherhood and apple-pie” bubble about how we do it because of love and being such nice people.

The answer of course is that we want to be masters of our market niche and to bring in a healthy EBITDA, and we do so by selling more to more people more often and collecting the money for it without delay or hurdles to leap.

So I ask them to consider what they do at work and how they deal with customers in three specific dimensions:

  1. The effect of what they do on the ability of the sales team to get many good reference customers who will accept calls from prospective clients and give favorable reviews.
  2. The influence of their actions on whether the contracts will be renewed or the bills paid without delays or conditions.
  3. The impact they have on whether the customer would be inclined to expand the scope or depth of their use of the firm’s products and services.


Would the customer we had just dealt with take a reference call from a prospective new client and give a favorable review or at least recommend to somebody else that such a reference call be taken?
If they would be less inclined to either take a reference call or give a favorable review to a prospective client, then our actions are going to be detrimental to the success of the sales team and the survival of the company.

Revenue Retention

If their CFO asked them for input on whether our latest invoice or contract renewal should be dragged out or settled quickly, what would they say? Would they tell the CFO to punish us by holding out, or say they didn’t care either way, or would they go to bat for us and recommend swift payment or renewal?

… and now for Product Stickiness

I used to call this “product saturation” but some people felt it implied something negative, and the term “stickiness” was suggested by somebody I respect. What it means is that because of good experiences with us, the customer will want to use more of our product features in more ways and in more parts of their organization. The question then is whether this recent experience with the support staff would incline them to agree to or oppose the idea of using another module or adding more users, or whether, if asked for input they would give a bad review.

Putting this all together, we can detail to anyone in a company exactly how what they do on a minute to minute basis plays a real and vital part in the survival and success of the company.
Of course we are all nice people and the customers become friends in a sense, but by providing a more meaningful and real-world narrative of why we should behave with courtesy, helpfulness, and effectiveness, we can see how in practical terms it results in a good outcome for the customer, staff, and the investors.

Now I suppose I will need to explain the “knowledge-centered” bit, but that can wait until I get enough people asking politely why it should matter to them – which of course it does and could save your organization a big chunk of money and improve, you guessed it, … referenceability, revenue retention, and product stickiness.

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