My company is looking to make some major changes to our product that we feel will open us up to a wider customer base; however, we are concerned with alienating our current, loyal customer base. What can we do to retain the trust of our current customers during this transition?
It's always a wise choice to pay attention to the "first rule of wing-walking": "Don't let go of what you're holding on to until you're holding on to something else."
Your task is to make sure that you're holding on to your current customers and to reduce the risk, as much as possible, of customer defection when you try to change your offering to satisfy a different class of customers.
Here are some things you can do to reduce the risk that your customers will defect:
Be honest and up front with your current customers and try to anticipate any problems or issues they may have.
Start with your highest value, most loyal customers and solicit their advice on how best to make this transition.
Offer a guarantee or a firm commitment to continue all services needed to support the previous product configuration.
Make this support commitment for the life of the product, and if you anticipate that this will become uneconomic at some point, then have some kind of "cash out" provision for customers whose product lives exceed your support period.
If appropriate, provide a serious economic incentive to customers using your current product to upgrade to the new one. This should be a genuine insider deal and not available to non-customers.
Hear more in Creating Customer Value, a SearchCRM.com monthly podcast series with Peppers and Rogers.
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